Antoni Gaudi’s Barcelona In Pictures 2003

I’ve noticed recently a surprising number of search traffic coming through my blog looking for “Gaudi”. Gaudi, if you didn’t already know is the surname of Antoni Gaudi, a Spanish architect who is responsible from some of the most memorable structures in the world. Many of them located in Barcelona, Spain.

But why on earth am I getting search traffic for Gaudi, you ask? Don’t you pretty much just write cigar reviews? If either of those thoughts came to mind, you have a beautiful, sexy mind. And you’re playing right into my hands. You’re right, I have been spending a lot of time on cigars lately. But I do have other hobbies. Two of them are travel and photography. Back in 2003 I combined all three hobbies and visited Barcelona. You probably didn’t realize it, but if you’ve been reading my blog for a while now, you’ve already seen some Gaudi already:

Antoni Gaudi Sun or Star Mosaic

Look familiar? That’s a Sun (or maybe star) mosaic decoration Gaudi designed into the ceiling of one structure at Park Güell in Barcelona. It also happens to be one of my favorite bits of his work I came across while I was there.

This got me thinking. I have a whole bunch of pictures from that trip, why not give those in search of pictures of Antoni Gaudi’s handy work what they want? After a good deal of searching (and a little terror when I thought they were lost), I found ‘em, cropped ‘em and polished ‘em up to make them blog worthy. Though these pictures were taken with my first digital, 2.1 megapixel camera, they’re still some of my favorites. Hopefully you’ll enjoy them as well!

Antoni Gaudi\'s Casa Batllo

Casa Batlló, one of a number of intriguing building on the Illa de la Discòrdia block in the Eixample district of Barcelona. This was probably my favorite Gaudi building.

Antoni Gaudi\'s Casa Batllo

A closer look at the alien balconies on the Casa Batlló.

Antoni Gaudi\'s Casa Battlo

The oozing lower windows of the Casa Batlló.

Antoni Gaudi\'s Casa Mila

Not too far away is the similarly wavy Casa Milà.

Antoni Gaudi\'s Casa Mila

The Casa Milà from the sidewalk below. Check out that crazy iron work fencing in what looks like a deck.

Antoni Gaudi\'s Casa Mila

The Casa Milà isn’t just wavy on the outside, the walls, windows, doors and even the stairways on the inside of the building are resistant to straight lines. We couldn’t go in much further than this, as the building is currently in use.

Antoni Gaudi\'s Casa Vicens

Casa Vicens couldn’t be more different that the previous two buildings. Not only is it block and full of straight lines, it doesn’t have an interesting accent mark in the name. (Which makes it a lot easier to type.) Looking at this building still makes me want to play checkers or build legos. Or both. Probably while drinking.

Antoni Gaudi\'s Casa Vicens

A view of the side of the Casa Vicens.

Antoni Gaudi Palau Guell

Palau Güell had a strick policy about photography inside the building, but the rooftop was up for grabs. These are a few of the numerous mosaic chimneys decorating the roof. (I think there are something like seven.) Due to the rather narrow side street it opens up to, a shot of the side of the building was all but inpossible, at least with that old camera.

Antoni Gaudi\'s Park Guell Bench

The famous winding bench at Park Güell. This single bench encircles a large open mezzanine-like area overlooking the entrance to the park.

Antoni Gaudi\'s Park Guell Lizard Fountain

A close up of the mosaic lizard fountain on the steps at Park Güell.

Antoni Gaudi\'s Park Guell

One of the little buildings in Park Güell. This building was under construction at the time, but I think it is used for management of the park. Or a tourist gift shop. One or the other.

Antoni Gaudi\'s Park Guell Sign

The sign on the outer wall of Park Güell.

Antoni Guadi\'s Sagrada Familia

The Sagrada Familia is a massive, unfinished cathedral that Gaudi may be best know for. Even though he didn’t finish it in his lifetime, the construction continued. In fact, it’s still under construction today! (Or at least as recently as 2003.)

Antoni Gaudi\'s Sagrada Familia

The Sagrada Familia is designed to be enjoyed. From every angle. It’s just incredible how much thought went into this structure.

Antoni Gaudi\'s Sagrada Familia

Another shot of the spires of Antoni Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia, with the city of Barcelona below.

Antoni Gaudi\'s Sagrada Familia

As I mentioned before, the structure is still under construction. In spite of the cranes, this shot gives you a better idea of what the building looks like as a whole.

Antoni Gaudi\'s Sagrada Familia

Before you get sick of looking at the Sagrada Familia, you gotta check out the facade above one of the door. Each of the main entrances have a different, but equally elaborate scene above them.

Joan Miro\'s Woman and Bird

OK, you got me. This isn’t an Antoni Gaudi creation. This sculpture, named “Woman and Bird” was created by Joan Miro, another (a bit less) famous Spanish artist, who I suspect was at least a bit inspired by Antoni Gaudi. This is also located in Barcelona.

Want to see more? Check our my Antoni Gaudi photography galleries.

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Just Wow: Absolut Reclaims SW U.S. For Mexico

In a startlingly grey matter-challenged marketing decision, Absolut vodka declares that “in an Absolut world” California, Texas and a whole bunch of other states belong to Mexico. (Including half of my home state of Oregon.) We are not amused.

Absolute vodka reconquers SW U.S. for Mexico

Smooth move, Absolut

Don’t worry, I’m not about to start getting political in this blog. Politics just brings out the worst in people. (You don’t need me to tell you that, just watch the election coverage on any news network.)

The thing about this ad that should get someone fired in the Absolut marketing department is that they put their brand in a very sensitive area of conflict between two nations full of proud people. An ad like this makes as much sense as sticking your nose into a friend’s family argument. No matter who you side with, no matter how much sense you may or may not make, you will wind up the villian.

Or maybe it’s someone in Absolut management that should be fired. They approved this ad. Maybe they though that since this ad was only appearing in Mexico, it couldn’t possibly cause offense here in the U.S. Clearly they forgot we are in a 24 hour, instant messaging world. If Britney Spears sneezes in Hollywood, fans in Bangalore, India know about it before she finishes wiping her nose.

Of course, Absolut will learn nothing from this gaff if customers don’t hold them accountable for it. I plan to reward Absolut by making martinis with competing vodkas going forward. (That isn’t a hollow threat, Absolut was my vodka of choice.) I know what you’re thinking, even bad publicity is good advertising. Losing my business is small potatoes compared to the business this will bring in. Well, that may be true, but is this post still good advertising for them if I…

…Give you a list of good Vodka alternatives? (Yeah, I know, I’m evil. To the core.) According to The Independent, the following are the ten best Vodkas out there:

  1. Level
  2. Skyy
  3. Snow Queen
  4. U’luvka
  5. Belvedere
  6. 42 Below
  7. Grey Goose
  8. Ciroc
  9. Danzka
  10. Reyka

Notice one name that doesn’t appear in that list? (Check out the original article, I didn’t edit the list!) This is a fantastic opportunity to discover a new vodka, and take your drinks to a new level. (Pun accidental, but I’ll take it.) Just look at that, a rant that turned semi-educational.

Gentlemen (and ladies) you may resume your martini-tipping. (Kudos to Cigar Jack for drawing my attention to the original Absolut article.)

UPDATE 1: Absolut has since offered an apology-that-isn’t-an-apology for the the ad. What are they they’re sorry for? That people were dumb enough to be offended, not that the ad was run in the first place. Swing and a miss, Absolut.

UPDATE 2: Skyy vodka puts out a comical press release in support of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, and condemning Absolut for their ad. Home run Skyy! While Absolut should probably fire both their PR and marketing departments, Skyy vodka should give their departments a raise!

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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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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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New Cigar Shop Finder: CigarPlaces.com

Arganese Double Wrap ChairmansAs I’ve seen it reported on Cigar Command and Today’s Cigar Reviews and News (kudos for the find guys!), there’s a brand new resource out there for people in search of a good place to buy or enjoy a fine cigar. And the best part, it is has an easy to remember URL: CigarPlaces.com.

What the website is, essentially, is a customized mash-up of Google Maps that allows you to ad your favorite cigar-friendly establishment or search for shops based upon a U.S. city. Simple enough, right? But then many of the best ideas are shockingly simple. In speaking with my good friend Jesse from Cigar Jack, our initial thought was “Man, why didn’t I think of that?” With all the frenzied rush to outlaw smoking in every place under the sun, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to find a place where you can still indulge in a premium smoke!

So Cigar Places definitely a website I’d recommend all cigar enthusiasts take advantage of. If for no other reason than to make it easier for those of us who spend time on the road to find a smoke shop when we find ourselves away from home. As with a lot of things on the web, the more it’s used, the more useful it becomes.

OK, now that I’ve lavished praise on this great new website, here are a few things I’d really like to see added in the future:

  • International listings. I think the site supports this, but it isn’t obvious.
  • The ability to search on a whole state in addition to a city or state.
  • I’d like to see shops in nearby cities as well as the city I searched. Searching for Atlanta excludes shops in Alpharetta. Perhaps this is a feature we could switch on or something.
  • A larger map view. Perhaps a link to go “full screen” or something.
  • Special markers for manufacturers.
  • Maybe some sort of rating or review system. (Yeah, I’m really going out on a limb here.)

Of course, the website is new, and is a great resource as is. I’m just throwing out some ideas. Do you have any ideas? Now go add your favorite smoke shop to the list!

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A Little Help With That Diet Resolution

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

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

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

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

Ok, onto the tips.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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Catching Up: The Avalon Cigar Herf And More

Last week I was discussing the still hard-to-find Avalon Cigars with some of the guys over at the CigarLive cigar forum. (Great forum, by the way, consider joining if you’re a cigar lover and you haven’t already!) Well who sends me a private message but Tom Ramsey the man behind Avalon Cigars. He was planning on making a sales trip to the Atlanta area, and issued a challenge.

If I could put together a herf in short order (about two days), he’d bring the cigars. Of course, I rose to the challenge. In short order, I contacted all the local cigar smokers I’m acquainted with, and picked Highland Cigar Company as the place to herf. With the arrangements in place, Tom called up Highland Cigars to secure the arrangements, and then called mutual friend and local cigar baron Sean Williams of El Primer Mundo cigars to meet up with us. And the rest is an aromatic, hazy bit of herfing history. History I’ve documented with the help of my camera.

Here are some highlights. (Click on an image to see a larger version in the new cigar event section of my photography website.)

The Gathering
Tom and Sean chat and behind them Discdog socializes with the regulars

Tom and Sean
Sean Williams and Tom Ramsey

Tom Presenting Brian Autographed Haint Poster
For setting up the herf, I got an autographed Haint poster

Experimental and Unreleased Avalon Blends!
Experimental and Unreleased Avalons!

The Avalon Cigar Spread
The whole spread, more than enough for all in attendance!

You can see the rest of the gallery here.

As I mentioned above, I’ve set up a new cigar event section in on my photography website. In addition to last weeks Avalon cigar herf, I’ve also put up galleries for the August and September Blue Havana II herfs. Here’s a sample of each gallery.

The Blue Havana II August Herf

It’s a Brian Sandwich!

And on a slightly related note, don’t forget to check out my review of the Avalon Honeyboy Lancero over at Stogie Review.

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Weekend Realizations

Brian's Random Thoughts: No nutritional value, but tasty!Though I do my very best to avoid it, I found my self thinking this weekend. My wife hadn’t realized I had a free moment to myself, and my mind wandered. And these are the random things that came to mind.

Advertising is sucking the meaning out of our words. I came to this realization as I watched a ridiculous feel-good commercial for some boring product or business. The lyrics to the background music featured the phrase “just another ordinary day miracle“. I’m sorry, but weren’t “miracles” supposed to be rare, amazing occurrences that were difficult, if not impossible to explain using rational or scientific means? I’m sorry, your underdog hockey team winning a prestigious game is not a miracle. It’s just unlikely. And it’s probably the plot for fifty unimaginative sports movies.

I’m seeing this in the cigar world too. At one point, a “premium” cigar would have been a top dollar, high quality cigar, full of rare and well-aged tobacco. Now almost any cigar that’s made by hand with long filler claims the word. So what is a really great cigar to do to distinguish itself in the “premium” forest? The only thing that can be done is to stack up increasingly meaningless words. Hence the new labels “super-premium” and “ultra premium”. If I ever come out with a cigar line, I’m gonna slap “hot-fucking-damn premium cigar” on the label, and outline the words with fire. And since I can’t count on any of those words conveying the desired meaning, I’ll also have a Navy Seal fist-fighting a dragon in front of a massive explosion on the cigar band. (Anybody see the move Idiocracy? I’m totally thinking about it right now.)

If pot is a “gateway drug”, the Nintendo Wii is a gateway activity. Suckered in by the lower price tag and fake scarcity of the Wii, I finally took the plunge and bought one. Holy crap, I love it. It’s the first new game console I’ve purchased in years. And I do mean years. The last brand new console I purchased was a Super Nintendo! I feel a review coming on. But that will have to wait until I’ve given it a good workout. (Or vice versa.)

But it’s dangerous. After a weekend of playing tennis and fishing I’m reminded of when I actually did these things. For real. Outside. And I kinda want to do them again. Its scary to think that around the country there might be chubby, pasty white guys remembering what it was like to be physically active. And emerging from their basements to fish, play baseball and tennis! It been like a zombie movie, only with more mountain dew. That can’t be good for video game sales.

The tasks my wife has for me multiply to fit the my available hours. As I’ve been scaling my weekly work hours down to something that doesn’t make me want to light myself on fire and leap from a freeway overpass, my wife is ramping up the random tasks she expects me to get done. They’re multiplying like guppies unattended. (Or attended. I don’t think presence of an audience makes a difference.) It’s simply not possible to accomplish even half of them, but when I start working on one, she gets excited. She gets a look in her like she’s won an expenses-paid shopping spree. So while I’m trying to complete one task, she’ll rattle off fifteen more that I really must remember to do.

Sound irritating? It is. But the good news is that even she can’t remember all the random chores she comes up with in the heat of the moment. (It really is like blood in the water for a shark.) To maintain sanity, I try to forget them all. The ones I can’t forget are probably the ones that really need doing. Or the ones my wife keeps bringing up. So yeah, the ones that really need doing. I find a similar approach often works in the office. (Use at your own risk.)

It’s been a week since I put up a post. It’s also been a week since I started this post. I really need to get adjusted to the new schedule. This new job is so absorbing that it’s easy to work longer than normal hours. And the convenience of working from home just magnifies that. That’s the danger of working from home: Because you can work anytime, you may just start working all the time!

OK, I’ve got some cigars to smoke, and some reviews to write. And it I think I hear the footsteps of my wife coming heading this way…

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Who’s Herfin’ And What’s Smokin’ 10/14/07

Heed the sage words of Brian!Well, it’s a little late this week, but here for your viewing pleasure is what’s up around the internet cigar world.

Cigar Reviews

In Other News
Belmont, California’s new ban of smoking in condominiums and apartments has been big news around the cigar blogs. I can’t help but shake my head in disbelief. On the bright side, there’s no way this won’t wind up in court. I just can’t see how the use of a legal product in a private residence can survive any sort of judicial scrutiny.

Friend and hard-herfin’ cigar blogger Cigar Jack was interviewed this week by professional business and media blogger Chris Garrett on the ins and outs of smoking a cigar.

The Week In Brian
It goes without saying that this week has been busy. A quick glance at the posts calendar reveals almost no links for the entire week. If you can believe it, I’m still in the process of transitioning from one job to another. That’s right, still. (Can I drag out a job change or what.) The good news is that this coming week is the last of this long and frantically busy transition.

In spite of the busy-ness, I did have time to put up a well received review of the Graycliff Blue Label PG over at the Stogie Review on Wednesday. Additionally, I’ve been smoking a lot of 5 Vegas Series A Archetypes this week (generously provided by Cigars Direct) for an upcoming review. Keep an eye out for it, and as always, be sure to check out the my cigar review index for the latest on my reviews on this blog and others.

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