The Terracotta Warrior Teaser

Brian's Terracotta Warrior ArmyI’ve been looking forward to it for at least a month. And that might be part of the problem. Because when I look back at Sunday with ancient clay warriors, I kind of feel like I saw the movie trailer and not the main feature film. Oh, but wait, let’s not spoil this before I even discuss the event a little bit.

As people in Atlanta probably already know, the Qin Dynasty Terracotta Warrior exhibit has recently opened at the High Museum of Art. (I’m imagining the numerous disappointed sighs out there when they discover that “high.org” is a website for an art museum. Delicious.) I don’t remember the price of admission off the top of my head, but it is a heck of a lot cheaper than tickets concerts headlining ancient musicians.

What are these Terracotta Warriors, some imaginary person asks? They are the larger than life clay sculptures of Chinese soldiers and generals that were created to assist China’s first emperor in the afterlife. (After kicking a lot ass in life, he looked forward to kicking even more in death.)

In spite of sending out folks to track down his subjects to find all manner of immortality herbs and potions, the first emperor decided to hedge his bets. There was at least a 50-50 chance he’d die one day. He needed to prepare for life on the other side. It just wouldn’t do for his army and deathly possessions to fewer than the other kings he met on the other side. I mean, hey, nobody likes to be the butt of jokes. He had options. He could just have his army killed so he could bring them along. But that had been done before. And his warriors, as good as they were in conquering the warrior states, weren’t perfect. They could be a little taller. And maybe a little stronger. But he really could do too much about that. So he decided to make new ones. Taller, stronger, faster and decked out with really nice weapons. He was a clever guy, actually. Not only would his afterlife army be larger than everyone else’s, they’d be taller by several feet. Guess who will be calling the shots in death-land?

One thing that the first emperor didn’t count on was how unpopular he’d be with those who were still alive. His living enemies set fire to his massive burial grounds and stole his warriors weapons. It might have been too big a deal for the recently deceased emperor if all the supports to his subterranean weren’t wood. But they were and the roof collapsed, smashing and scattering his now defenseless warriors. Talk about damage during shipping. After all that work over all those years, and look who still is the laughing stock of the afterlife. (“You made your soldiers out of what?”)

Fortunately for us, a bunch of smart people with penchants for jigsaw puzzles have reassembled an incredible number of these damaged warriors for our viewing enjoyment.  And with the OK of the Chinese government, they’ve decided to take the Terracotta show on the road, visiting museums all over the world. The show stars crossbow mean, generals, musicians, a chariot driver and even a headless guy with a weight problem. (Known as the “strong man”, but I think really just has a thyroid problem.) And to make sure the show is a success, it returns to China after each exhibit to be “blessed”. (I don’t know what that means exactly, but I’m sure it helps.)

It’s a show that’s really worth seeing, even if it is a little anticlimactic. I had hoped to see a room full of clay soldiers, but what I saw was merely a sampling of what has been unearthed and reconstructed. Probably 10 actual soldiers in total. It’s enough to intrigue and impress, but not to give you a sense of the magnitude of this ancient wonder of the world. To be fair, it would be prohibitively expensive and logistically impractical to ship a small room full of warriors all around the world. And they do try to give you this sense with a massive picture on one wall depicting the warriors in their sunken hallways. I guess it’s time for me to start saving up for a plane ticket.

So you’re probably wondering if it’s worth it to go and see the exhibit. Let me help you in your decision making process with a quick list of pro and con bullet points. (Man, am I helpful or what? Make your checks payable to Brian Hewitt.)

Why you should see the Terracotta Warrior Exhibit:

  • You don’t have the money for a plane ticket to China or the vacation time to enjoy it.
  • How often do you get to see 2000 year old Chinese sculpture? Or 2000 year old anything for that matter? Julius Cesar is younger than these things, and he didn’t hold up nearly as well.
  • It’s always beneficial to admire fine craftsmanship. Whether it be a fine premium cigar, and incredible painting or a clay replica of a ancient Chinese soldier.
  • In spite of being made from only 8 different molds, each soldier his striking unique. Different hair styles, clothing and facial features are suspected to represent a variety of the Chinese ethnic groups of the day.
  • There’s more to see than just the warrior. Coins, replica bronze chariots with horses, birds, art, and even a cool model of the ancient assembly line that assembled the warriors.

Why you might be disappointed:

  • If the exhibit in your museum is roughly equivalent to ours, you’ll probably be done in an hour. And that’s with the audio tour (which is an absolute must). But if you don’t have a lot of time, this could be a plus.
  • You’ll only see 9 or 10 actual warriors.

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Reserva Miraflor Habano Oscuro Robusto

I’m happy to say that I survived and have returned from the cigar event to end all cigar events. Of course, I’m talking about none other than the annual IPCPR (formerly RTDA) show in Las Vegas, Nevada. And what better way to get back into the swing of things but with a review of a brand new cigar?

This cigar is a particular treat to review. Not only is it absolutely new (which makes it especially attractive to me), but I happen to know that very, very few people have ever smoked it. There were very few samples available at the show, and I was lucky enough to get one only because I met the man behind the cigar, Andres “Andy” Madera on the CigarLive forum earlier this year.

There isn’t yet a whole lot of information yet available online about the cigar, so here’s what I know. The cigar is produced in Esteli, Nicaragua by GDW Cigars. Andres Madera, the owner, has set up his U.S. base of operations in the rainy city of Portland, Oregon. Andy has big plans, but is starting out with a single line of Reserva Miraflor cigars. It’s available in the standard vitolas (robusto, churchill, toro, belicoso) as well as the increasingly popular lancero size.

And that pretty much covers what I know. Let’s light it up!

Cigar Stats:
Size: 5 x 50
Wrapper: Nicaragua
Binder: Nicaragua
Filler: Nicaragua
Smoking Time: 1 1/2 hours
Beverage: Water
Price: ~$4.00

The Pre-Smoke
As you would expect from a cigar with “oscuro” in the name, this cigar comes wrapped in a nice, dark brown, oily leaf. But not quite as dark as some other oscuros out there on the market, more of a slightly reddish maduro. In my inspection of the cigar, I found it to be free of any obvious flaws and nicely firm.

The cigar had a faint compost scent on the wrapper that was a little bit more pungent at the foot. I clipped this cigar with my trusty Xikar scissors and found the cold taste to be a slightly sweet cocoa.

The Burn
The burn of this cigar was very respectable. The ash was solid, light and hung tough on the cigar for around an inch before dropping. The draw was also prefect. The only flaws I noted while smoking the cigar was a little bit of unevenness in the burn in the first and last thirds. And I did have to relight the cigar once right around the halfway point.

The Flavor
The cigar started off with a rich, creamy, nutty cedar flavor and quickly developed some caramel and coffee flavors early on in the first third. Creamy and occasionally spicy coffee dominated this portion of the cigar, and was rejoined by cedar just before second third began.

By the second third, the coffee flavor faded and was replaced by cocoa and dark chocolate that combined nicely with the cedar. As the second third burned, the cedar flavor became more and more prominent. Just before the final third, the cigar was all aromatic, almost floral, cedar.

The final third saw the return of the cocoa and chocolate, but cedar remained dominant.

The Price
I have no complains about this price. I’m not sure what the final MSRP will be once these cigars become more widely available in retail shops, but I know it will be pretty close to the price quoted by Andy to interested buyers on the CigarLive forum. (You can see the details here.) Since it falls in the $3 to $5 range, I think most cigar smokers will find it affordable.

The Verdict
My verdict for this cigar is simple. It’s a great tasting cigar that burns well and won’t break the bank. I really enjoyed the combination of cocoa and chocolate flavors with cedar and can see myself smoking this more often in the future. And I’m really glad that I enjoyed this cigar. I didn’t know what to expect from this cigar, and I wanted to be able to help support the new guy to the market! Andy made that easy by producing a fine cigar! If you have the opportunity to smoke one, I say go for it.

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

Tower of Burn
Here for your viewing pleasure is my trademark Tower of Burn.

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The Day That Nub Came To Town

After months of waiting, Atlanta finally got some Nub love this weekend. On Friday, Sam Leccia, one-time Oliva cigar rep and brains behind the new Nub cigar line, loaded up the Nub Mini Cooper and drove into Georgia. His destination was La Casa Del Tobacco in Buckhead which locals may know by previous incarnations as “Georgia Cigar” or “Cigar World”.

Nub Mini Cooper
Nub Mini Cooper

In case you haven’t heard about the Nub cigar yet, here’s a quick explanation of these unusual looking stubby smokes. The theory is that these chubby four inch cigars capture “the sweet spot” of the tobacco, which they say generally begins around the 3 1/2 to 4 inch point on a normal cigar. At the same time the larger than normal girth of the stick gives you the same quantity of tobacco as a much longer cigar and keeps the cigar cool at the same time. So in theory, you’re doubling up on the best part of the cigar.

Nate and Eddy Fontana
Nate and Eddy

In the months between the announcement of the Nub and it’s arrival in Atlanta, I had plenty of opportunity to talk with people about both the concept behind the cigar and the cigar itself. As you might expect, early on the buzz was huge. People who had only just seen pictures and a read a quick blurb about the cigar were asking if they could buy boxes of them. But then as time wore on, I started to notice more an more skepticism. Some of it made sense, and some of it just seemed like the natural backlash against the initial feeding frenzy.

Nub Connecticut
Nub Connecticuts

And then a month or so back I finally got my hands on a sampler. I’ll be honest, they weren’t that impressive. The Cameroon had a flaky ash and none of the Cameroon flavor I so enjoy. The Connecticut and the Habano had a better ashes, but the cigars seem to have no soul. Where was this “sweet spot” flavor I heard so much about?

So it was with a healthy dose of skepticism that I headed over to the event. I knew it would be a great time, but I had serious doubts as to whether I’d enjoy the cigars. After taking a quick moment to check out the Mini Cooper and say hi to some of the folks, I picked up a few to smoke there at shop. I decided to start with the Cameroon, both because it because it had been the poorest performing before, and because, oddly to me, Nate, the local Oliva rep who joined Sam on this leg of the journey, said it was probably his favorite.

Nub Mini Cooper
Nub Mini Cooper

I quickly lit it up, and noticed something I hadn’t before. Flavor. This cigar had a very pronounced and very enjoyable Cameroon flavor! Hey, this was great, what’s the deal? So I asked Nate. He told me that some of the early sampler cigars were rushed a bit, and that he had actually had the same experience.

Nub Cameroon Ash Stand
Nub Cameroon Ash Stand

So with a tasty cigar in hand and drink in hand, I sat back and watched the Sammy the Roller show, starring Sam Leccia, a pile of tobacco and the cool rolling table Walt White made for him. It wasn’t like touring a cigar factory, watching torcedors (or tabaqueros) pounding out cigar after cigar. This was more like “cigar hacking.” And I mean “hacking” in a good sense. Sam was creating little Nub masterpieces by stealing wrappers from other cigars to create double wraps, triple wraps, pipe shaped cigars and even more interesting wrapper combinations.

Sam Rolling
Sam Leccia Rolling Another Special Edition

Special Nubs
Special Nubs

And then it got even more interesting. Sam turned the table on us literally and had a number of us roll our own cigar. Yes, I’m happy to say that I tried my hand at making a cigar. After 20 or 30 minutes of applying and re-applying the habano wrapper (and pained grimaces from Sam), I succeeded in making a Nub Habano “gummy bear.” Let’s just say it had the shape of a cigar, with the gooey, vegetable-gluey consistency of a pudding.

Brian Rolling A Nub
Brian Rolling: More Idiot Than Savant

Finally, the evening was winding down. I opted to buy a mixed box of Nub torpedos, now that I found myself enjoying them. (Interestingly, I found myself enjoying the Connecticut and Cameroon more than the Serie V-esque Habano) And I wanted my shot at winning the Mini Cooper. A name was called for the Mini Cooper finalist and it wasn’t mine. But hey, I walked out of there happy, with a box of good cigars and a free t-shirt. And the knowledge that I won’t be rolling cigars for a living any time soon.

Mini Cooper Finalist
And the Nub Mini Cooper Finalist Is…

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Cigar Jedi Tricks: The Tongue Cigar Ash Stand

I am so very glad that I had my new camera in time for the Herf Across CigarLive this Saturday. Because what I’m about to show you, in full 10 megapixel splendor is possibly the most advanced cigar stunts I’ve ever witnessed. I’ve seen a cigar beat a microwave in a battle of wills. I’ve seen an Opus X transformed into a potentially lethal tea and consumed. But never before have I witnessed a Cigar Aficionado with enough command of the force to balance a lit cigar on his… Wait, did I say his? I mean her! I don’t think you’ll believe it if I tell you. You have to see it for yourself. Check it out:

Nestor Placencia Ash Stand

You standard ash stand with a Nestor Placencia Special Selection. Impressive, but it’s been done. We can do better than that.

Dual Aurora Cigar Ash Stand

A dual cigar ash stand, well that’s a little better. (My cigar is the shorter one on the right.) But still, ho-hum, we’ve seen it.

Aurora Hand Ash Stand

An Aurora ash stand on the palm of your hand? Now we’re getting somewhere. I’ve never seen that before. But stick around, it gets even better!

Cigar To Tongue

Oh she’s not really gonna…

Cigar To Tongue!

Ouch! But can she balance it there?

Nestor Placencia Tongue Cigar Ash Stand!

Success! And it only took about five attempts!

Mmm... Like Licking An Ashtray!

Now she’s looking for a kiss! In this case, kissing a cigar smoker IS like licking an ashtray!

Who is this ninja of the rolled premium tobacco leaf, you ask? She’s Sondra Hankamer, the South East representative for Miami Cigar Company. And while she probably has her employer popping antacids like jelly beans, you have to admit, this is one event that people will remember!

I’d like to thank Sondra for the entertainment and cigars, Sean Williams of Primer Mundo Cigars for his fine smokes, Jim the owner of Blue Havana II for hosting the event, and Frank (tx_tuff) and the guys at CigarLive (join it!) for putting together this national event! Talk about an experience!

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Help Me Help Matt Help Kids And Win Cigars!

Confused yet? Let me clear it up for you. Friend, and fellow cigar blogger Matt of Matt’s Cigar Journal is participating in the Ride for Kids benefiting Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation of the United States and he needs a little help making his $3000 dollar goal.

If you’ve been following my blog very long, you know I like a good charity. And it’s been a while since I threw in with Team Hanselman’s crusade against diabetes. So when I heard a fellow brother of the leaf was putting together some money for another good cause, I was interested in helping out. And when I heard that by donating you have a chance to win a box of Opus X, Perdomos, Camachos or Hoyo de Monterreys, it was a no brainer.

It works like this. If you donate $10 by April 25th, and follow the instructions on Matt’s announcement, you get one entry into the drawing for one of the boxes. $20 gets you in twice, as you might expect, but then things get even more interesting. Using a complicated secret algorithm known only to himself, Matt will give you seven entries for $50, nine for $70 and a whopping 14 for $100. (By “secret complicated algorithm“, I mean I haven’t taken the time to figure out how it works. It looks like a heck of a deal, so I’m not questioning it!)

In summary, there’s a bunch of reasons to scratch together a Hamilton (or a Benjamin!)

  1. You help fight Pediatric Brain Tumors. Which is a serious warm fuzzy. (Karma, people!)
  2. You might win a box of fantastic cigars.
  3. Your contribution is tax deductible!
  4. You might keep me from winning a box of cigars! (I know that this is a priority for some of you out there!)

So grab your ten-spots and head over and give. You don’t want me winning that box of Opuses, do you? (You know if I do, there’ll be no tolerating me.)

Thanks for helping out!

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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Arganese Trip: Dominican Republic in Pictures

It’s been a while hasn’t it? You’ve probably been wondering where I’ve been. Well, the quick answer is the Dominican Republic. I spent four days in the D.R. touring tobacco fields and a cigar factory as a guest of Gene Arganese (of Arganese cigars). As a crazed cigar enthusiast, the trip was the experience of a lifetime. One not to be missed, no matter what the circumstances. When Gene generously offered to cover all expenses except airfare, it was a no-brainer. For full a full discussion the things learned about cigars during the tour, be sure to check out the post I wrote for Stogie Review.

In the week or so since I’ve been back, I’ve been spending the time I usually use to write for this blog processing all the pictures I took on my trip. Without further ado, here’s some of my favorites. (To see all 184 pictures, head over to my Dominican Republic gallery.) Click on any of the following to see a larger, higher quality image in the gallery.

Deck Chairs at Casa Arganese
Deck Chairs on the deck at Casa Arganese

Field Worker
Worker in a recently seeded tobacco field

Arganese Greenhouse
The Arganese greenhouse- Home to thousands of seedlings

La Flor de Tobacco Arganese
La Flor de Tobacco Arganese

Worker hanging tobacco leaves
Hanging the tobacco leaves for drying

El Hombre Muy Guapo
El Hombre muy guapo: The field boss (who will pose when flattered)

Monument to the Heros of the Revolution
The Monument to the Heroes of the Revolution in Santiago

Arganese tobacco barn
The field and the barn

Arganese Cigars
The finished product

Bulls on parade
Santiago traffic: Bulls on parade

Arganese Double Wrap Chairmans
A bundle of the Chairman Double Wrap

A Stinkie Ashtray in the moonlight
A Stinkie Ashtray in the moonlight. How romantic!

Again, these pictures are just the tip of the iceburg! I encourage you to check out the full gallery and take advantage of the slide show capabilities Smugmug offers. (Look for the little button in the upper right corner of the page.) Enjoy!

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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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Ho Ho Ho, How’d It Go?

Now THAT is a Christmas Tree!It’s an anticlimactic Boxing Day here at the desk in the Manastery. (For those of you who don’t know, that’s the official, wife-recognized name of my office cum cigar lounge and library. However, she also calls one of the closets “the pantry“. Hey, You win some, you lose some.) Christmas has come an gone, and breaking with about five years of tradition, I’ve spent the day working instead of wandering the streets of a distant city looking for an exotic drink and bite to eat. Like any other day, the sun is out, a cigar is blazing and my wife keeps peeking her head in to remind me about the chores I’ve been putting off. Doesn’t sound terribly inspired does it?

I may be in a bit of a blue funk over the day after Christmas, but Christmas itself was actually a lot of fun, and pretty restful. As much as I enjoy travel, it was nice to not have to deal with airports, hotels, and over packed luggage. Though I do have to say I miss the holiday change of scenery.

My favorite part of this Christmas was my elaborate plot to sneak some presents for my wife under the Christmas tree. The execution of said plan involved pretending to be intoxicated (which wasn’t too much of a stretch with the assistance of dollar beer night at a nearby Irish pub) and playing computer games until my wife was sound asleep. Once I was convinced she was out cold, and after I got a few past an acceptable number of levels on the game, I sprung into action. I retrieved the carefully hidden gifts and the secretly stashed wrapping paper and got to work. I knew my devious designs were a complete success when angrily muttered at me for staying up so late as I hopped into bed. And the best part is she walked past the presents several times before she noticed they were there!

We also had a friend over for a late Christmas lunch, which gave us the opportunity to “entertain” as they say. The multi-course lunch and nice place settings were good fun, the highlight of the evening was several hours of competitive rounds of bowling, baseball and golf, compliments of my Nintendo Wii. As much fun as it is to play by yourself, it’s even better to go head to head with friends. (Is there a better party game than the Wii?) By the end of the evening, our friend was determined to get a Wii of his own, once they’re a easier to find.

But what my cigar smoking brethren are wondering right now is, what cigar did I smoke to celebrate the holiday? I’m not going to tell you. I’m going to show you!

Ashton VSG Enchantment
Hard to go wrong with an Ashton VSG Enchantment!

What was a surprise was how little time I actually had to enjoy a fine cigar. I didn’t get one in Christmas Eve, but I did settle down with a fine cigar once my Wii-playing buddy hit the road. And I made the most of it. If you think you see a paper clip in the picture, your eyesight isn’t failing you. I didn’t have a toothpick handy, and a paper clip affords one a nice little handle for that treacherously shrinking bundle of tobacco joy.

Though I didn’t take any notes for a proper review, I can tell you it I tasted excellent leather, caramel and toffee flavors. And as you can see, the burn was immaculate. All in all, it was a fantastic end to a very cozy Christmas. Now I just need to figure out what I’m going to smoke for New Years!

How was your Christmas? Did you enjoy a fine cigar? (Or for non smokers, a fine dessert or great beverage?)

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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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