What Are The Top Ten Blogs Worth?

Recently I ran across a post on Dane Carlson’s Business Opportunities Weblog that lets you calculate the worth of your blog (via BabyChaos) by submitting it’s URL. Of course, there’s no way to resist the attraction of knowing, in nickels and dimes, how my schizophrenic posts on lolcats, cigars and crazy beards is worth. I was impressed, my blog is worth more than I expected. In theory, anyways.

My blog is worth $1,129.08.

How much is your blog worth?

Wow. For a minute, I had delusions of retiring to blog for a living. Of course, this figure is just monopoly money. It looks really great, but it won’t buy you an americano when you need one. Since it’s not actually worth anything, I thought it might be fun to use it as a yardstick to measure my blog against Technorati’s top ten blogs.

To save you the effort of doing this yourself (I’m all about convenience), here are the figures.

  1. Engadget.com – $15,510,736.50
  2. BoingBoing.net – $11,645,895.66
  3. Gizmodo.com – $10,410,117.60
  4. TechCruch.com – $10,068,006.36
  5. HuffingtonPost.com – $7,941,384.18
  6. LifeHacker.com – $7,989,370.08
  7. ArsTechnica.com – $7,344,100.86
  8. PostSecret.blogspot.com – $6,736,091.28
  9. DailyKos.com – $6,627,699.60
  10. MichelleMalkin.com – $5,826,617.34

Total Value of the Top Ten: $90,100,019.46

Interestingly enough, though the HuffingtonPost is listed as more popular on Technorati, LifeHacker is actually worth slightly more money. I wonder how that works. (Both the rating scheme and the value calculation are based on statistics from Technorati.) Also amazing is that #1 Engadget is nearly 3 times as valuable as #10 MichelleMalkin. The gap between Engadget and #2 BoingBoing is also the largest in the top ten.

Of course, I can’t just stop there, I need to know the stats on some other websites I frequent.

And no post of mine would be complete without some mention of cigars. I’m building a pretty good list of cigar themed blogs in Google Reader, here’s some of my current favorites. (If you’re not on the list below, I may not have found your blog yet!)

It’s interesting to compare the differences in calculated values between the cigar blogs and other blogs out there. The gap in values doesn’t surprise me, after all, cigar smoking is still very much an offline activity. And most major manufacturers still have a very minimal and sometimes primitive presence on the web.

[UPDATE 5/18/07: I just realize that I left off the single most important, hard hitting news blog out there: I Can Has Cheezeburger. I.C.H.C. is worth $893,102.28.]

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Look Ma, I’m Smokin’ Acid!

Extra Ordinary LarryFriday night, I finally gave Acid a chance. I am, of course, talking about one of the line of “botanical” cigars made by Drew Estate. (Had you worried there, didn’t I Ma? πŸ™‚ And don’t worry, “botanical” doesn’t mean pot or anything hallucinogenic.)

I’ve been interested in trying out the Drew Estate Acid line for a while now, but I had no idea where to start. A friend helped me decide. At a gathering of former colleagues, he surprised me with an Extra Ordinary Larry. The Extra Ordinary Larry is a cigar from the Drew Estate’s “Purple Line“, with an unusual size that I’d like to call the “Obese Toro” (6 x 60). (And since this is my blog, I’ll call it that. You heard it here first! πŸ™‚ )

Before we get started with my impressions, the vital stats. (Note: As other cigar bloggers have noted, the cigar manufacturer’s website looks pretty nice, but is amazingly useless for anybody interested in any cigar backgroud information. I had to get these from another source.)

The Cigar Stats
Country: Nicaragua
Length/Ring: 6 x 60
Shape: Toro
Wrapper: Maduro
Strength: Full

The Pre-Smoke
The cigar was extremely aromatic. You could smell the infused botanicals and essential oils through the wrapper. The odd smell made the cigar was a 15-minute celebrity at the gathering. Everybody wanted a quick sniff before I started smoking. Comments ranged from “wow” and “weird” to “dude, you’re smoking my aftershave!” (Exact quote. Seriously.)

The scent was floral, and though I’m more used to detecting the attributes of traditional cigars, it seemed to be either a rose or even a mild lilac smell. There was also a spiciness that reminds me of cologne or perfume.

The Burn
Unfortunately, nobody was really prepared to smoke a cigar. Aside from physically possessing a cigar, all the other accessories were missing. So it was a tooth-cutting, cigarette lighter, standing-outside-the-pub experience. Fortunately, the weather was great, and only a little breezy.

In spite of the lack of the proper equipment, this cigar burned very evenly and reasonably coolly. The ash made it to around 2 and a half inches before it dropped.

The Flavor
I think the flavor was pretty interesting. The first third of the cigar smoked much the same way it smelled. Roses, lilacs, grapes and sweet spice. Midway though these flavors seemed to fade a bit but were still present. In the final third, it started to smoke more like a traditional cigar. Slight wood flavors began to creep in. Just before I put it out, it became all spice and pepper and would have been tough to identify as an acid cigar.

The Strength
The Drew Estate website identifies this as a medium to full cigar, but in my experience it was a light to medium right up until the final third. At the final third it built up power quickly, but was only full for the last 2 or 3 pulls before I put it out. And I had been smoking this cigar more quickly than I normally would. (I had a lot of cigar to get through, and a party full of non-smokers to get back to!)

One of the best indicators of the strength was that it had no affects on my state of mind, no light-headedness and I was easily able to rejoin the festivities without feeling impaired.

My Conclusion
The Extra Ordinary Larry is a $10 – $11 cigar, and probably a bit spendy to smoke regularly, at least at at the price you pay for singles. I’m OK with that price range, but only if its a cigar I really, really enjoy. Consistently. And one I would be interested in smoking often.

This cigar was a fun smoke, but probably not a cigar that I’d want to light up every day. There’s a good chance I’d buy more singles from time to time, and only for immediate smoking. But probably not before I try some of the other Acid flavors. (Unless, of course, my friend buys me another!) In the meantime, I’m going be sticking with more traditional cigars. (Since I originally wrote this post on my crackberry, I had an great experience with a CAO Gold. But more on that later.)

A note for newer cigar smokers: As any seasoned smoker knows, you can’t put these acid cigars (or any other type of aromatic alternative cigars) in your humidor with standard cigars. It will ruin the flavor of your other cigars, and probably leave a mark on your humidor’s cedar lining permanently. If you’re thinking about smoking a lot of these, you’ll probably want to buy a humidor specifically for your desired flavor.

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Nora, The Piano Playing Cat

In a previous post, I made comical reference to getting a pet and taking awkward but cute pictures of it as a means of having a successful blog. Well, ladies and gentlemen, the bar has been raised. It’s not enough just to post pictures of a “lolcat” (or dog or whatever), you need to video your pet playing musical instruments. Leave it to the internet to filter out the mediocre, and go right the… uh… ridiculous. Entertaining ridiculous.

I’d introduce these, but there’s not much more to say that this is Nora, a cat that loves to plunk about on a keyboard at her owner’s piano studio. Enjoy! (And oh, you know you do! You are so welcome.)

Nora, The Piano-Playing Cat

But wait, there’s more! Much, much more! And you know you’ll watch every second! This one even has an intermission for you refresh your beverage! (I can’t stop shouting! It’s all so exciting and cute!)

Nora: The Sequel

And what’s a trilogy without… Hold on, I guess we don’t have the third installment yet. I’ll get back to you once we do. For now, I think I’m going to go drink until I feel my integrity has returned… πŸ™‚

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Fairness: Fun With Myth And Dishonesty

The Unbalanced Scales of FairnessOn Friday, Scott Adams put up an interesting post called “Fairness“, wherein he puts to task the average person’s concept of what “fair” means. To illustrate his point that peoples’ basic idea of fairness is deluded, he uses the analogy of splitting ten marbles between two youngsters. The question is, how do you properly divide those marbles? From his post:

Is five marbles apiece actually fair?

Don’t you need to know how many marbles each kid already owns? What if one kid has a thousand and the other has none? The marginal utility of an extra marble is much higher for the marble-poor kid.

Doesn’t their different level of enthusiasm for marbles come into play?

I agree with is analysis of the complexity of fairness. The calculation of absolute fairness would involve identifying and quantifying a nearly infinite number variables. Variables even if they could be known, would be extremely difficult to assign a logical value. Even if you could know with certainty the levels of enthusiasm of each child, how much weight would you assign it? Whatever value you assign would be heavily influenced on your own biases regarding the importance of enthusiasm in your life.

What bothers me about Adams’ post is his acceptance of fairness as a necessary evil, a calculation quickly arrived at by “morons” for the ease of doing business. (“Morons” is his word; he is often condescending, I guess that’s part of his appeal. Don’t think for a minute that I think you, dear reader, are a moron. And I don’t have time to check into rehab for a slip of the tongue. πŸ˜‰ ) I don’t think fairness should ever be used as the reason for any decision. It’s a crutch, and one easily cast off.

Instead of using phrases like “we’ll do such-and-such because it’s fair” or “level the playing field“, I’d love it if people would be more accurate and say instead “it works best with our shared biases” or “we like the idea of altering the current biases be more in favor of one group over another.” My set of phrases is more honest. (Which is why these phrases will never been uttered by any politician, ever. Unless I become one… and I don’t see that happening.) Fairness is just a facade used by people to mask their self interest. And our society hates any discernible displays self interest for some illogical reason. (Which is why every model claims it was somebody else that submitted that first, career-launching headshot.)

Whenever you hear one group of people arguing for something on the basis of fairness and you have another group arguing for an opposing thing on the basis of fairness, you can trust that the end result will not be “fair”. There will be a shift in bias in favor of one group, likely at expense of the other. (Or perhaps nothing will happen. Which might be argued as fairer than either option.)

Rest assured if your boss begins discussing things with you in terms of fairness, you’re about to be laid off. Or he’s just eliminated this year’s bonuses. Hey, he can’t afford both his and your bonus this year, and you expecting one in spite of poor corporate performance would be unfair to the shareholders. (Man I love being a independent consultant.) But I digress.

So I move we abolish the terms “fair” and “fairness” from our language, except when referring to the cost of a taxi, or waxing poetic about the aesthetics of a love interest. Straightforwardness and honesty is the best policy. It’s the marker of good management in any business. It should be the hallmark of a great politician.

(Don’t you just love how managed to completely avoid saying inherently political? πŸ™‚ )

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A Letter To Alec Baldwin

Alec Baldwin on 30 RockAlec, Alec. The thing that concerns me about this voicemail you left for your daughter isn’t that you gave her a heated lecture. I agree with Bill Maher, kids are too cottled today and need a stern talking to at the very least (especially if no other form of discipline is involved). It also isn’t that you called her a rude little pig. Maybe it was a bit harsh, but then again maybe she is. What bugs me about the thing is that you keep telling her about how she’s “making you feel” and all the bad things she’s doing to you. Don’t you know anything about kids? Those injuries are trophies for spoiled adolescent children. Not to mention all the man-cred you lost with your fans.

At this point, your relationship with your daughter is blown. You have to accept that now before too much more time is lost. If you continue down this path, it’ll always be crap. Embarrassing Entertainment Tonight crap. However, you now have the ability to grab the still available roll of “cool uncle”, but you have to act fast and decisively. You need to turn the tables. Stop taking her calls and stop making calls. Give full custody over to your ex-wife. Don’t ever again lose your cool in public. (And for god sake, no more apologies or discussion on the matter.) Go live one hell of a great, news worthy life, peppered with attractive women and swanky parties in exotic locales, immediately. Nothing is more attractive to other people than a happy, exciting life. And you need that attraction bad right now.

After a while a you will start getting calls from your daughter. Believe me. You absolutely will; she’s a celebrity child, and she’ll want things that mommy won’t want to give her. (Mom will start to think she’s been had and be envious of your fancy-free ways. She’ll encourage your daughter to come to you for more stuff.) Be cool. Take every 3rd call, and turn down most opportunities to meet up, but when you finally do, give her those trinkets mom won’t let her have. Make a point of having a great time. She’ll remember that the next time she and her mother fight. And when that happens, blammo, you’re the cool uncle. Who just happens to be her dad. Bonus.

I won’t lie to you, this will take a least few years. But you’re an award winning actor, I know you can pull this off.

I’m not telling you this because I want to become your friend. I think you and I have a perfect relationship right now: You act out quirky, funny parts in TV and movies and I watch them and chuckle. I’d really hate for our thing to all be ruined by a spoiled child.

Also to put your concerns to rest, my qualifications for this diagnosis are solid. I write a blog in my spare time and I write code for a living. And I thought you were great in that casino movie with William H. Macy. 30 Rock is pretty funny too.

No need to thank me. When I start seeing news footage of you at crazy parties with hot women on each arm, I’ll know you got my note. (Ok, you can buy me a box of cigars, since you insist.)

[UPDATE: Wow, if you search Google for “Alec Baldwin Letter” this post is the first result! To my knowledge, that’s the first time I’ve ever been the first search result for anything on Google! πŸ™‚ ]

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8 Reasons to Visit Malaysia (And A Few Not To)

Malaysia, Celebrating 50 YearsI’ve spent a lot of time in Malaysia over the years (about 6), both on business and for tourism, and I genuinely like the country. In some ways, I kind of see it as my adoptive South East Asian home, or at least a base of operations whenever I’m in SE Asia. My wife is Malaysian Indian, so I am a bit biased, but I think that puts me in a unique position to review the country’s qualities as a tourist destination.

Malaysia Is Great Because…

  1. It’s 50 years old this year. On the 31st of August Malaysia makes it to half a century as a nation, and they have a lot of parties and activities planned to celebrate the milestone. And when Malaysia does something, they do it big. They’re already on the books for quite a few world records, including tallest flag pole, and largest pizza. And I think the Petronas Towers hold some record also. (I once worked in an office in the second tower. Above the bridge. Seriously.) Who knows what records they’ll be breaking this year.
  2. It’s inexpensive. At the time of this writing, $1 USD buys you 3.42 in Malaysian currency (the Ringgit). To give you an idea, it’s very easy to great food all day for under $10 USD. A warning though, they tax the heck out of alcohol. Even a bottle of the local beers will cost you at least $3.50 USD or more. And don’t think you’re gonna luck out at the Starbucks, your venti Frappuccino may blow your food budget for the day. But if you play your cards right, your time in Malaysia will cost you a lot less than your airfare.
  3. You can smoke cuban cigars in the Havana Club. If I’ve read the laws correctly, the legality of Americans smoking cuban cigars even in foreign countries is questionable, but happily, they don’t check your passport when you smoke one. (Just don’t try to bring them back with you.) The Havana Club isn’t necessarily better than any other cigar bar, but with the tropical Malaysian climate, you can imagine you’re there… pre-embargo, of course! πŸ˜‰
  4. Your inner pirate captain will be satisfied. This one is a bit controversial, piracy is rampant in Malaysia, but they have taken steps to crack down on it. When I was there earlier this year, much of the pirated software I remember had disappeared. But there was no end of the “special edition” game boy games, and to a lesser extent, DVD’s that you could buy if you went to the right places.
  5. There’s exotic fruit like Guava, Rambutan, and Durian. I think Rambutan has got to be one of the world’s coolest fruits. It’s red or yellow, covered with with a thick almost spiny hair and tastes great. Durian on the other hand is just an interesting, odoriferous experience. And it’s been in the news a lot recently too (a few articles here and here). Beyond these, fresh fruit juice is in inexpensive abundance. It’s hard to beat watermelon or guava juice first thing in the morning.
  6. There’s a lot of monkeys. I love monkeys. When was the last time you were eating at an Italian restaurant and were entertained by the antics of a frolicing group of wild monkeys?
  7. It has a good mix of westernization and the exotic east. The nice thing about Malaysia is that it is westernized enough that you won’t be completely out of your comfort zone (yep, they have flush toilets in the hotel rooms), but eastern enough that you’ll know you’ve escaped the western world. For example, in the same day you can enjoy ornate Chinese temples and Thaipusam festivals in the Batu Caves, and return to your hotel room and catch up with CNN, buy big name Italian designer clothes and/or go smoke a cigar in the Havana Club. You can tailor your visit to be as exotic as you can handle.
  8. You can haggle to get to the fabled “best price”. I love that about Malaysia. In any shop that isn’t part of an large national or international chain, you can bargain the price down. The price you pay is really up to you, as price stickers generally display the heavily marked up tourist price. And they expect you to haggle. In one classic example, my argument based on a little bit of nutty Numerology was convincing enough to lower an already reduced price on one item by another 36 Ringgit. And let me tell you, this merchant drove a hard bargain. I know I was his most profitable sale of the day.

Malaysia is Not So Great Because…

  1. There is a small lunatic fringe element. I’ve never, ever had a problem with anyone in Malaysia (well, excluding some taxi cab drivers, but that’s different). But there there is at least one state on the east coast of the peninsula that has imposed some very strict islamic laws forbidding such naughty things as women and men vacationing together or the wearing of swimsuits on the beach. You also want to avoid the Malaysian-Thai border. The good news is that these areas are extremely easy to avoid (it’s actually a challenge as a tourist to get to these areas), and have very little to do with life elsewhere in the saner parts of Malaysia.
  2. Your freedom of speech is in question. Though you’re not likely to be hassled in any way by the authorities (they love tourists), I’d advise against doing your Che Guevara impersonation and loudly announcing your anti-establishment leanings. If you have them. You’re a guest, be cool and Malaysia will treat you well. Just know that the TV and movies you watch, and the newspapers you read have passed through the Malaysian Censor-matic.
  3. Your inner pirate captain will be satisfied. Yep, this is in both the positive and negative columns. I can have my cake and eat it too, especially on my blog. Piracy is stealing and stealin’ ain’t cool. Unless you’re drinking rum and saying things like “Avast ye!” and “Shiver me timbers!” (For more information on the stress it causes me to hold conflicting view points, check out my post Can You Be A Good Person And Do Bad Things?) As I said before, the situation is improving. And as a tourist, there’s a good chance you won’t see any at all. (You don’t know where to look, and I won’t tell you. πŸ™‚ )
  4. The taxi drivers will gouge you. This is a weak one, but I’m all out of bad things to say about Malaysia. And this is a very common complaint. (There is even a hotline for tourists to complain about dishonest taxi drivers.) If it’s raining, you will pay a premium, if you can get a taxi to stop. If there’s heavy traffic (and there usually is), you’ll pay a premium. If the taxi driver uses his meter, look to the sky and thank the deity of choosing. I am exaggerating a bit here, but this is the single most common scam I have encountered in all my travels to Malaysia.

Hopefully this has peaked your interest in Malaysia a bit. It’s a great place to visit and I think some growth in tourism will help it to make even more improvements. I’m sure I’ll be back there sooner or later… maybe I’ll see you there. Check for me in the Havana Club. πŸ™‚

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Tramp Stamps, Crazy Beards and Humidor Seasoning: Things That Bring You Here!

Today has been a great day in terms of traffic to my little blog, and I’ve been enjoying watching the statistics. Clicking the “Blog Stats” tab throughout the day is a little like pulling the lever a slot machine. It doesn’t always pay off, but there are times when it really like I get a little change.

Until today, I’d pretty much just stuck with looking at the overall hit statistics, and the pages viewed on a given day. But today I noticed that some additional links I’d never tried following. One of them took me to a page that gave me both a weeks worth of page view stats, and the total hits for all pages for the past month. Well I just had to know what my most popular post is. I was definitely not expecting the one I saw. Which do you think it was? It was (and still is) Crazy Beards You Gotta See To Believe. I guess that could be discouraging, considering the time and effort I’ve put into cigar posts, but I think it’s both funny and interesting. (My most popular cigar post The Mystery of Proper Humidor Seasoning is #4.) When it all comes down to it, people want to see crazy beards.

I’ve also been looking through the search terms that bring people to my blog, and was very happy to see “Brian’s Random Thoughts” in the list several times. I have fans… well, at least people who remember my blogs name. πŸ™‚ But what do you think the most popular phrase was? Wait for it…. it was variations of “lower back tattoo”, which leads them to my 12 Undead Fashion Atrocities post (#7 and rising fast) where I discuss the infamous Tramp Stamp.

UPDATE: I’m still laughing about crazy beards and lower back tattoos phenomenon and the hits keep coming in.Β  But I get it now.Β  The most popular blog on WordPress right now is “I CAN HAS CHEEZBURGER?“, which purely pictures of “lolcats” (funny cats) and other cute pictures of animals, often overlaid with clever, misspelled text.Β  Hmm… I wonder if there’s a market for a “lolcigars” blog.

OK, the people want crazy beards and lower back tattoos. To steal a phrase from the Daily Show, here it is, your moment of zen:

Awesome. But before I sign off for this post, I did find one interesting thing in the blog stats. Somebody asked me a question. Well, not me exactly, but they Googled a question, and I’m going to answer it. With fancy formating.

Brian’s Random Thoughts Q & A

Q: Is seasoning my humidor necessary?

BRT: The answer is “it depends.” If your humidor is the traditional Spanish cedar lined humidor (which is generally a good idea), the answer is definitely yes. If you don’t season your humidor, your cigars will. What I mean is that the cedar lining will leech moisture and elements out of the surrounding atmosphere. And since a humidor is a sealed environment, the moisture and other elements will come from your cigars! It might be possible to avoid it by letting it sit empty (and closed) with a humidifier unit in it for a couple of weeks, but seasoning it will be faster.

The thing to keep in mind is seasoning doesn’t have to be a complicated thing with lots of chemicals. Buy a bottle of distilled water and treat and retreat the cedar lining with it.

If you have another type of humidor (especially if its not made of wood), I’d refer to the the instructions that came with it. A humidification unit/humidity beads may be all you need.

If you’d like a lot more in depth information, check out my post The Mystery of Proper Humidor Seasoning.

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The Sony Reader: Too Good For Me To Use

The Sony eBook ReaderMan I just love a title that leaves you thinking, “what the hell is he talking about?!” If you’ve read this blog very long, you’ve already realized that. Anyway, what I mean is that the Sony eBook Reader is such a great gadget, and so much like reading a book (sometimes better because it’s so light) that my wife has stolen it from me.

That’s right. To steal a term from my friend and technology uber-guru Scott Hanselman, the WAF (Wife Acceptance Factor) is off-the-charts high. As you know, it’s usually very difficult to get your wife to OK the purchase of a new gadget, especially if it causes any redundancy with any the stuff you already have. Occasionally, you’ll get a grudging acknowledgment that something was worth getting. (I’m still waiting on that for the killer 5-day wireless weather forecaster I bought a week or so ago… these things take time…) But you almost never get the kind of response I got to the Sony Reader… She’s taken it, and won’t give it back!

Ok, since I tagged this post as a review, let’s get to what I think about it in more useful detail.

What I Like About the Reader:

  • My wife loves it. This makes it very easy to buy eBooks for it. It just makes it difficult to read them.
  • It’s very easy to read. In fact, reading it is like reading a book. I know this because I still catch myself reaching up to the corner of the reader to flip the page. Because of the marvels of eInk, you can read it at virtually any angle, as long as you have a light on. (It isn’t backlit, but there’s a reason for that…)
  • It’s very light. The reader is smaller and lighter than most hardback books. Though it isn’t small enough to fit into a normal shirt pocket, it fits easily into a medium sized purse (WAF again) or a backpack.
  • The battery lasts forever. Seriously, this thing goes for weeks without needing a recharge. I find myself uploading books and accidentally recharging it before I can use up the battery. (This was sort of annoying when I was waiting to see what the I’ve-Run-Out-Of-Juice behavior was like.) Part of what allows it to last this long is that it is not backlit, and it only uses power when you turn pages. I haven’t used the MP3 abilities for this yet (other than to test that it worked), so the mileage for sound will likely be less.
  • eBooks are cheaper than regular books. Sometimes they’re free! The Sony Connect eBook store has a selection of eBooks that is lacking in some areas (some popular authors and topics are completely missing or under represented), but it is improving. The books it does have, which include many new and bestseller selections is typically 20% cheaper than the physical book and even more discount for older titles. Of course, that’s if you even buy any books. There are a ton of free, Sony Reader formatted books available on ManyBooks.net for download. There are so many, in fact, that I’ll be probably won’t need to actually buy a book until next year. And no, it isn’t just old Sherlock Holmes novels. (Though there are quite a few of them, aren’t there?)
  • You can read RTF and text documents. I love being able to grab a huge hunk of text, an article I want to read later, or some online book, and save it as a RTF document (easy to do with Microsoft Word) or a text document. (I actually do this a lot more often than you might expect.) This also has the potential to very handy for anyone in transit that needs to get up to speed on project documentation.
  • You can read blogs on it. You can’t see it online, but the software that comes with the reader allows you to download the latest from 20 different popular blogs including Lifehacker, WiredNews, and Engadget. Many are disappointed by this limitation, but I only read blogs on my reader when I’m flying some place, so it’s not a big deal to me. However, there is a tool out there that many people aren’t aware of named Web2book (originally RSS2book) which allows you to convert any feed into a format readable on the Sony Reader.
  • Multiple bookmarks in multiple books (and blogs too). Bookmarking is an essential feature of the Sony Reader, as it does not give you a method jumping to a specific page. (It does do a good job of remembering your last place in each book you’ve opened, even if you don’t bookmark it, which is nice.) Apparently, you can have as may as you want, I’ve had several pages worth of bookmarks in a single book with even more bookmarks in other books. Handily, it will let you view all your bookmarks in all your books at once, or by individual book.

What I Don’t Like About the Reader:

  • My wife loves it. She’s usually already got it during my prime reading time (i.e. just before bed), which means I’m stuck with the old school paper format.
  • The sad “Connect Reader” software that comes with it. The program responsible for transferring files from your PC to the Sony Reader really wants to be something slick, like iTunes. But the interface breaks so many usability standards, leaving you confused and irritated until you get used to it. When I first started using it, I kept “ejecting” the reader from the application when I was trying to upload files. Actually downloading RSS feeds is a bit of a puzzle too.
  • No search capability. That’s right, you can’t search for a word or a phrase at all. Which means the Reader provides no advantage over traditional books for people needing to read a lot of reference material. Linking inside an eBook is possible (some books have a linked table of contents), so in theory, and index in the back of the book would become easier to use.
  • No jump-to-page functionality. The Reader badly needs a way for the user to jump specifically to a page number. It does allow you to move in percentages through the book by using a set of 10 buttons along the lower side of the screen, but how often do you need to jump 60% into a book? (I have a feeling that this may be in the works, its seems to be the single beef I see the most mentioned around the internet.)
  • Poor PDF support. There are a lot of eBooks and documentation out there in PDF format, and the Sony Reader’s PDF support is really poor. It basically takes the PDF and shrinks it to fit the Reader’s screen. That may not sound bad, but if the PDF is designed to be printed on an 8 1/2 by 11 sheet of paper, it means your 12 point font becomes a 7 point font. Even worse if there are borders. Unless the PDF was designed properly for the Reader’s smaller screen, you won’t be able to read it without a magnifying glass. (There is a rumor that you get better results trying to read PDF’s in landscape mode, but I’ve never tried this… feel free to comment if you have! πŸ™‚ )

What I Just Don’t Care About:

  • The reader’s audio playback. It’s not an MP3 player. And I usually don’t listening to music when I’m reading. I can see this as potentially being OK for listening to audio books when your eyes get tired, but there are a ton of itty-bitty MP3 players out there, get one of those.
  • The picture quality. It’s not a photo album, and does anybody really want to read a comic book in grayscale? (Unless of course, it was in black and white to begin with…) I guess it’s nice to keep a picture of the wife, kids and dog when you’re away on business, but that’s about as far as that goes for me.

UPDATE: Who This Gadget is For:

I just scanned this post again, and it felt like it needed a bit of guidance as to who would most enjoy this gadget, and who would find it disappointing and overpriced. It’s pretty simple (no need for bullet points), this gadget is for people who like to read books that are the cover-to-cover, front-to-back. People who read mostly comic or art books will likely find the display disappointing and those that want to store a bunch of reference books will find it hard to navigate quickly. (There are very few technical books available for the reader anyway.)

I think it’s incorrect to say that this is only for people who like to read “the classics” (which are free, and worth reading), this is just as much for anyone who likes to read the latest Chrichton book or best-selling self help tome.

And I’ll say it again, this isn’t a gadget for somebody who might read books, but is really looking for an MP3 player or a picture frame.

Some Other Sony eBook Reader Resources:

In case I sold you on the reader, or have gotten you a bit more interested in it, here is some more information you can check out.

And for the cigar enthusiasts, I did a quick search for cigars on the eBook store and they do have the Idiots Guide to Cigars and a book about Ulysses S. Grant called Cigars, Whiskey & Winning. Not the best selection, I know, but it beats the heck out of the borders down the street (which has none).

UPDATE: I did some poking around, and I did find a bit more information that will be useful to Sony Reader users, or people thinking about buying one. The MobileRead Wiki entry for the Sony Reader is jam-packed with great information, including some useful stats on the proper size of a reader-friendly PDF. As well as a guide to creating PDFs from Sony. Check ’em out!

UPDATE 2: I found another option for people needing to convert unusable PDFs to something Reader-friendly. The MobileRead wiki also has a page dedicated to eBook conversion. On it there’s a utility that specializes in converting PDFs to other formats, including text and word documents (which you can then convert to RTF). It’s not free, and I’ve never tried it, but it something to consider trying if you have a lot of PDFs you want to read.

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Wedding Highlights

Brian and Umah, April 14th 2006Since I promised, here’s some of the highlights of my recent formal wedding ceremony. (This was originally written a week ago on my crackberry, before I had returned home.)

The ceremony and running around is over, and it appears that while it didn’t go off without a hitch (pun unplanned, but I’ll take it), our formal wedding ceremony was a success. Even though we’re still away, I thought it’d be fun to note some of the quirks of the day for those anxiously awaiting details. (You’re both welcome.)

A Tale of Two Photographers
For a reason still completely mysterious (and heavily speculated about) the photographer we booked, and paid in 2 installments never showed up. After an hour went by, we assumed the worst, but were surprised by the best. The best came in the form of a 2nd photographer secured last minute by the hotel. Also in the flashes of numerous digital cameras photographing every moment of the event.

UPDATE: Two days later (Monday) the first photographer finally called. She had scheduled us for the following day by accident. Evidently she doesn’t check her voice mail ever over the weekend.

UPDATE 2: We were very fortunate, quite a few people brought digital cameras with them to the event, and we’ve already received a few CD’s full of pictures. Since I didn’t personally take a single picture during the event, all pictures will be available for free download from the wedding directory of my photography website. Just as soon as I have a chance to get them organized and uploaded.

Our ceremony was very traditional and very religious. My father was presiding, and he used to be what I like to refer to as an “old school” minister. And I absolutely wanted him to do it his way- as I told him, he’s the expert. (We’d been legally married for a year, the ceremony was more for the benefit of friends and family than our own.) I think it surprised quite a few in attendance, but everybody said they enjoyed the ceremony. The most memorable part of the wedding message was the bit about wives submitting to their husbands. The people in the audience that knew my wife well coughed, cleared their throats and made other interesting noises as they stifled laughter. Nobody who has met Umah will ever mistake her for the dutiful, obedient wife.

Right Finger, Wrong Hand
When we exchanged rings, mine had a hell of a time clearing the second knuckle of my ring figure. Which is strange because I had it on earlier and it fit nicely. I spent the final minutes of the wedding ceremony inconspicuously trying to work it into a comfortable position with the thumb on that hand. The right hand… And then it came to me. The ring is on the correct finger of the wrong hand. 😳 I don’t think anybody noticed, but I thought it was too funny to not mention.

Paid Tours of the Gardens
Umah’s young nephew was in attendance (one of the very few of her relatives that could make it), and I could see almost immediately that this kid is a natural entrepreneur, destined for future business success. He was offering tours of the gardens behind the wedding hall for a quarter to the wedding guests. Though he didn’t know all that much about about bird and plant life, he happily made up background information about these things on the tour. It became a classic moment when he told my friend Cindy Reid that she’d be “bad for business” because of her extensive knowledge of bird and plants. Evidently she made mistake of correcting some of his tour information. πŸ™‚

Evening of the Wolf
Our wedding night was anything but conventional, in stark contrast with the ceremony. Since we had actually been married for exactly a year, we decided it’d be fun to continue to hang out with friends after the ceremony. The receptions spilled over to a pub down the road called the Driftwood Inn and the hours raced by. Then as the final revelers were walking back to their respective hotels in the wee hours of the morning we came face to face with a massive dog many of us believe to have been a wolf. The large canine gave us an indifferent calculating look, and decided it wasn’t hungry enough to eat 4 people. Interestingly, it opted to lead us toward our respective hotels.

I, as one of those who believed the giant mess of fur and teeth to be a wolf, decided that this must an omen. And probably should be exaggerated and lied about when retold. (This is only the first retelling, so not much exaggeration or lies have been added yet.) I’ve been told that the wolf omen means that my wife and I will have a good marriage and a big litter of kids. Hmm… a lot of kids… πŸ˜• Well, maybe it was only a big dog in need of a bath after all.

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Cigars and Books: What Does Your Cigar Taste Like?

My humidor these days a pretty schizophrenic collection of single cigars, all in plastic wrap, split into Maduro and non-Maduro groups. And it’s been growing too fast. Until this week, it was possible for me to look at a cigar and know where and why I bought it and about how much it cost. Last night as I added a few Don Pepin Garcia cigars to the mix, I realized that I had no idea where I picked up the a good percentage of the cigars looking back at me.

The forgotten cigar stats bugged me. But that wasn’t the only thing getting on my nerves. A bit later I was enjoying a cigar and trying to analyze the flavor, and I couldn’t put my finger on what the flavor was. The flavor seemed to play heavily the sides of my tongue, but it was a complete mystery. Not a I’ve never-tasted-this-before thing, more of a where-have-I-tasted-this-before. And that’s when it hit me. I need a cigar book. And a list of all the crazy flavors that have ever been rumored to have come from a cigar for the next time I draw a flavor unknown. A book with that list. And check marks next to each item. (Of course, a few fill in the blank lines too, because you never know.)

It would also be extremely interesting to know the composition of the cigars. Knowing that, I might be able to get an hint of whether or not I’d like a cigar by knowing the attributes of its contents. For example, I suspect that I might not like tobacco leaves from Cameroon. It was a major attribute of one cigar I smoked that I found somewhat unpleasant, but it could have just as easily have been another part of the cigar that I found unpleasant.

So I headed over to the nearby Borders to have a look through my options. Simple enough right? Not quite. I found the shelf between spirits and food clearly labeled “cigars”, but there wasn’t a single book about cigars on it. It was full of books on smoothies. (Can you think of a topic less appropriate for a cigar shelf? πŸ˜•) I checked the nearby shelves to see if the books had shifted as supplies change. Nothing. I won’t drag it out. They didn’t have a single book in stock on cigars, but they did try to sell me an issue of Cigar Aficionado. The same was true in the next book store I tried (admittedly, it was a mall book store). Since I was in the mall, I tried the chain smoke shop, and all they had was a book on cigar related quotes and anecdotes.

It became clear then that this would have to be an internet purchase. I just hate to buy a book like this, sight unseen, online. Most online book retailers do a rather poor job of giving you any idea of what is contained between the covers. Even those that try (Amazon) are have very limited glimpses inside the book if at all.

So I have a favor to ask of you, fellow cigar enthusiast– Can you tell me if you own a cigar book? If you do, which ones do you have, and what do you think about them?

I’ve seen numerous recommendations, the most common is Perelman’s Pocket Cyclopedia of Cigars (the guys from Stogie Review mentioned this one) and The Ultimate Cigar Book (a guy in a chain tobacco store recommended this). Heck, I’ve even seen people online recommending The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Cigars. (Aside from not wanting to be seen reading the book, at least you can be sure that they make no assumptions about your cigar knowledge.)

UPDATE: Oh the delicious, maduro-smoky irony. I write this, and then only a day later I’m watching the Your Questions My Answers #7 at Stogie Review, and I see they have a whole segment on essential books, magazines and movies for cigar smokers. In the course of the video they again recommend Perelman’s Pocket Cyclopedia of Cigars, and Walt even flashes an older copy of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Cigars. They had mixed reviews for Cigar Aficionado, which doesn’t surprise me, it really is more about lifestyle than cigars. (I only have a subscription because I was able to pick it up with some “award points” I had.) This doesn’t mean I’m not still interested in your opinions, the case isn’t closed! πŸ™‚

Now I don’t want to go asking a favor without doing anything in return. Starting this very moment, I am compiling a list of all the cigar flavors I can find, both real and imagined. Once I’ve created something that seems reasonably thorough, I’ll make it available for download, probably in a handy format like the one I mentioned earlier.

At this point, the list consists of:

  • Coffee
  • Caramel
  • Black Pepper
  • Spice
  • Cocoa / Chocolate
  • Peat / Moss / Earth
  • Nut
  • Wood
  • Berry

(A portion of this list came from wikipedia.)

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