The 11th Most Ridiculous Street Name

Silly Atlanta Road Names on Google MapsIt’s been nagging at me for a while now. For weeks it seems that every time I hear a traffic report on the radio it’s there. Sneering at me. Daring me to notice it. Double-dog-daring me to revisit ancient blog history. Well I’m taking the dare.

I’m announcing here that I’ve found the long lost street that deserved a slot of (dis)honor on my original list of the 10 most ridiculous street names in Atlanta. (If you haven’t enjoyed that classic of western literature, you’re missing out on at least three minutes worth of intermittent chuckling.)

This new low in infrastructure monikers is Welcome All Road. What’s comical about this name is not only does it have a nauseating folksy charm to it, it also happens to border one of the most dangerous places in Georgia. None other than the infamous College Park, GA.

To give you an idea, here’s a handy little break down of College Park’s more charming attributes:

Murder: 1.32 the national average.
Forcible Rape: 2.78 the national average.
Robbery: 3.00 the national average.
Aggravated Assault: 2.55 the national average.
All Violent Crime: 2.83 the national average.

And that’s just violent crime, to find out how much more likely you are to have your car jacked or your house burned to the ground, check out this page of stats from a 2003 FBI report. (Note: I’m linking to Google’s cached version of the page, the actual page is down with some errors.) Of course, these figures are probably lower now that I’m no longer working in that area.

This also reminds me of a famously bad quote from an old X-Men video game, which is, and I quote, “WELCOME TO DIE!!!” But I digress. The point is, this is road’s name is not only incredibly ridiculous and heckle-worthy, it’s also ironically inappropriate. Simply delicious. And for this reason, I crown Welcome All Road the new heavy weight champ of poorly named strips of concrete in Atlanta! Take a bow, Welcome All, you’ve won this title without hardly lifting a glove.

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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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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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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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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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Tobacco World Event: Biggest Thing Since RTDA

OK, technically Saturday’s mega herf at Tobacco World in Marietta wasn’t the biggest thing since RTDA (IPCPR). Rumor has it that the Big Smoke in Vegas was bigger. But I’ve always favored the theory that if I didn’t see it, it didn’t happen. (I often wonder if people simply cease to exist when they’re not in my presence. Hey, it’s tough having delusions of grandeur. But at least it’s cozy here at the center of the universe!)

The Tobacco World Guys Running The Show!
Don’t try this at home, they’re professionals!

Mental health issues aside, the event at Tobacco World was awesome. Definitely the biggest thing I’ve been to since RTDA in Houston (pictures, write up), and likely the biggest cigar event in Georgia this year. I’m not sure if it’s a comprehensive list, but the big names I bumped include Rocky Patel, Gilberto Oliva, Nick Perdomo, Erik Espinosa (of 601), Alan Ruben (of Alec Bradley) and Al Argenti (of Cuban Imports).

The Big Boys Posing
The big boys are out in droves!

The most interesting news of the night is the apparent shake up over at Avalon Cigars. As I mentioned in a previous post, I helped Tom Ramsey set up a herf at the local Highland Cigar Company. Well, the word from this event was that Tom is no longer involved with Avalon, and a lady named Tracie Southern is now representing them in the south east. This came as a huge surprise to me, as I thought he was one of the partners in the business.


Local Cigar Reps

Kent, Alec Bradley rep; Tracie, Avalon Cigar rep; Jeff, CAO Rep

The other noteworthy news is about the swag giveaways. There were a ton of them. Swag was raffled off six pieces at a time for hours, with a humidor full of Opus X’s as a grand prize. The noteworthy part was I didn’t win a single thing! I guess my string of good lucks has finally run it’s course. But hey, the event was fun, and I did pick up bunch of great smokes, and met some new people. I definitely picked up some great fodder for some upcoming reviews too!


Rocky Patel and Cigar Rep

Does Rocky Patel ever take a bad picture?

You can check out the entire gallery of pictures from this event here.

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On Boot-Licking, Name-Dropping And Success

Tom Presenting Brian Autographed Haint PosterIn a recent cigar review, a reader left a comment oozing scorn that accused me of licking the boots of cigar industry insiders and dropping names. You could just feel the pulsing, jealous ire of said reader, as he commanded me to never again review anything but average cigars that are always available, inexpensively priced and widely smoked. If he couldn’t find it or afford it, I shouldn’t smoke it and write about it.

Wow. All I can say is… Awesome! I’ve gotten the blogging world’s equivalent of hate mail! As you probably are well aware, it’s very easy to write things that people don’t care about and don’t read. It’s slightly more difficult to write things that people will read and find pretty good. But to bring somebody to a twitching, teeth-gnashing rage without discussing obvious things like politics and religion (and sometimes the Great Pumpkin), well that just takes skill! To celebrate, I’m going to light up the rarest, most expensive cigar that a person with a famous name handed to me for free. (I’m having trouble coming up with which cigar that’d be, as I don’t actually mingle all that much with people are well known. I guess that RTDA Stradivarius might do the trick. Mmmm… 34 dollar cigar I didn’t pay for…)

Seriously though, I make a point of finding cigars that are either new, or new to me and reviewing them. And when I can get my hands on a pre-release cigar, even better. One of the great things about the cigar industry is that it’s growing. In fact, I’ve heard that the cigar industry is now at around 80% of its size during the boom of 1990’s. New things are coming out all the time, and from completely new cigar manufacturers. Isn’t it useful to be able to read about these cigars before you buy them? I know I search for cigar reviews all the time before pulling the trigger on a “deal” I come across to make sure it’s actually a deal. Also, how are you going to find out about new cigars out there if nobody ever reviews anything new or unusual? Just because you can’t find a cigar right now, doesn’t mean it won’t be in every store in a month or two! And just because a cigar is out of your price range doesn’t mean it’s out of everyone’s price range. (You aren’t everyone, no matter how big your waist size gets!)

As to the name dropping aspect of the tirade, I find that even more surprising. The thing I like the most about the cigar industry (well, after the cigars, that is), is that it’s full of unpretentious, friendly, down-to-earth people, that are very accessible. I mean, how the hell else would I have met so many of them? The heads of cigar companies come to herfs and cigar promotions to meet their customers and talk about their cigars. They mingle, they shake hands, they walk, they talk, they breath… Oh my god, I think they’re people just like you and me! And they’re not behind bullet-proof glass, or surrounded by secret service! If you’re reading this, and you haven’t met a cigar “celebrity” (if that word even applies), I recommend checking out the event calendar at your local brick and mortar. (Or check out this list on Cigar Cylopedia.) They will be there, will you?

So in summary, I’ve met at least a dozen famous cigar people, including such names as Kinky Friedman, Jose Oliva, Lito Gomez, Carlos Torano and Tim Ozgener, by going to cigar events. (I’ve never yet had a cigar celeb travel anywhere just to meet me.) I have a bunch of cigars that I didn’t have to pay for, but will spend hours of my own time to smoke and document for your reference for no reimbursement whatsoever. Please leave your hate mail in the comments below.

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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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