Fear And Stupidity In Atlanta

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Cigar Jedi Tricks: The Tongue Cigar Ash Stand

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

Nestor Placencia Ash Stand

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

Dual Aurora Cigar Ash Stand

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

Aurora Hand Ash Stand

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

Cigar To Tongue

Oh she’s not really gonna…

Cigar To Tongue!

Ouch! But can she balance it there?

Nestor Placencia Tongue Cigar Ash Stand!

Success! And it only took about five attempts!

Mmm... Like Licking An Ashtray!

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

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

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

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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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The Yellow Dust of Despair Approaches

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

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

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

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

The Fearful Forcast

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

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

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

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

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

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Inconvenient Convenience: Signs Your Retail Website Sucks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Signs Your Retail Website Sucks

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

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15 Minutes Starting Right… Now!

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

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

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

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

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

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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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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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