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!

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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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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Nintendo Wii: Fun, But Is It Exercise?

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s stats for an average session:

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

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

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

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

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

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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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Fighting Off Abe And The Beave With Kiwi

You don’t have to look like this to be a good I.T. consultant.Sleep deprivation is funny. I don’t make the rules, it just is. Don’t believe me? How else could you explain the knock-out pill commercials featuring a cantankerous, news paper-reading beaver and a vaguely injured Abe Lincoln? And don’t tell me you haven’t spent at least one all-nighter laughing your ass off every time your lack of coordination broke the lead off the end of your pencil. Nights like that are what college is all about. That and hot co-eds. Nights without sleep, laughing outside the windows of hot co-eds. (I kid, I never did that. The windows were too high off the ground.)

Anyway! Last night I experienced full-blown insomnia. So today I’m about as sleep deprived as they come. I can’t even make it to the coffee pot in the break room in a single trip. Take for instance, my last trip for hot wake-up juice. I grabbed a Kiwi and headed for the break room, playing catch with the weird fuzzy fruit as I walked down the hall. As it turns out, kiwis, while fully functional as a fruit (and semi-functional as a baseball), are quite deficient when it comes to fluid retention, scoring only mildly higher on that scale than river rocks.

So in the shirt pocket goes the kiwi, and and back to the office go I. Normally all the extra exercise would make me grouchy, but I’m kind of shifting in and out of robotic automaton mode. I’m mentally checking in when things go wrong, like when I try to pour coffee into a kiwi.

I won’t bore you with the rest of the coffee retrieval trilogy. (Yep, 3 round trips, and the kiwi is still in my shirt pocket.) The scary thing is that I’ve been more productive today than any day in the prior week. That can mean one of two things: 1.) I’m a phenomenally good programmer, and I don’t need to actually be awake to solve problems, or 2.) I’m going to have one hell of a mess to clean up tomorrow. The part of me that checks in from time to time has been alerted to the likelihood of scenario 2.

I feel like I should leave you with a few pointers now. So here goes. (Consider the source before taking action on any of these items!)

  1. A diet high in fruit helps make up for a night low in sleep.
  2. Kiwis have poor fluid retention, but are fun to bounce of the ceiling.
  3. Don’t try to pack your lunch if you didn’t sleep the night before.

Have a restful day. :)

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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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