Office Etiquette: Hand-Chiseled On Holy Tablets

You don’t have to look like this to be a good I.T. consultant.I’m not sure why, but the office I’ve been working in for the past couple of months seems to have a high concentration of people who don’t grasp the unwritten rules of office etiquette to which I am familiar. Rules that I like to believe are common place in the U.S. professional workplace. I’m not saying that there is an unusually large percentage of people from other nations working here. I’d say the mix is similar to most other places I’ve worked. And as a I.T. contractor, I can say that I get around.

The Restroom
I can understand that people can be a bit uneasy in the restroom. Let’s face it, its not the the most pleasant place to spend time. Everybody’s heard some story about somebody, somewhere catching something from a visit to a dirty restroom. But come on, unless you work in a gas station, you’re not using a gas station bathroom. You’re slapping your pampered backside down on the same, daily-sanitized porcelain as other people who spend their whole day doing nothing more irresponsible than eating an extra donut or drinking burnt coffee.

I see some crazy stuff people do to deal with the terror of the white collar restroom. Toilets embalmed in toilet paper. Unflushed urinals. Piles of paper towels laying in the corner between the wall and the hinge-end of the door. I’m all in favor of the touch-free bathroom experience, especially in bars and the airport. But in the office of a computer consulting firm? What the hell?

Let’s review. Here are the restroom related things people must begin doing immediately. Immediately.

  1. Flush the damn toilet. It’s so easy, even if it isn’t done for you automagically. Most flush levers offer little resistance, so training is not required.
  2. Throw your paper towels in the trash where they belong. Yes, I read the same report you did. Door handles have cooties. If you must open the door with your partially used paper towel, take it with you until you find a trash can. Do not, repeat, do not throw it on the floor where you think there should be a trash can.
  3. Clean up your mess. See #1 and #2. Be creative, you can apply this rule to toilet seats and sink counters.
  4. Wash your hands. Every single time. This week I witnessed a guy walk out of a stall and directly out the door. Toward me. I ran screaming in terror. And this guy died of typhoid. Actually he probably didn’t, but he might be really sick by now. I wouldn’t advise shaking his hand. Or Sheryl Crow’s, for that matter. (Yeah, I know, supposedly it was a joke, but if you use a paper towel to open the door, you probably want to use one when shaking her hand, just in case.)

The Break Room
This important point of office interaction is one of the other major locations of ridiculous violations of etiquette and common sense. Unlike the restroom, the point of this area is enjoyment. You’ve got your water cooler. The coffee pot. The snack machine. And so forth. People loiter and talk here. (Well, probably not as much as they should. Nobody wants to be seen as that slacker who’s taking a five minutes away from his or her desk.) But for some reason, this area of pleasure is often transformed into an irritation by people who don’t clean up after themselves, or take the extra minute to replace supplies they’ve used. And you know not everybody is running late to a meeting. And if they are, maybe they should consider hitting the break room after the meeting. (There’s a lot more time then!)

But enough talk. Let’s get to the list of break room rules.

  1. If you kill it, you must fill it. This is the single most important rule of office life, and strangely the one most often broken. If you take the last bit of coffee, and it’s earlier than 4:30 PM, you are a complete bastard if you don’t start up another pot. If there’s any any doubt lingering in you mind as to whether you should make one or not, do it. Or face possible retribution in the afterlife. From the holy book of Second Lumburgh: “Yea verily, quoth the Lord, he that drinketh the dark nectar of the bean and replaceth it not for his brethren shall be wretched in my sight. I shall smite him with pimples in uncomfortable areas, and cause his hair to wither and fall upon his resting cot. And also I shall smite his coffee, that it be as decaf all the days of his life. Thus it shalt be, totally.” Hey don’t shoot the messenger here, it’s there.
  2. Clean up your mess. Yep, it works here too. Isn’t it great how applicable this is? Keep thinking, you’ll find some other great places to apply this rule! πŸ˜› (Exceptions apply for people who bring in pastries.)
  3. Lab experiments in the office fridge. Though I don’t use it myself, the office refrigerator is not a petri dish for the budding mad scientist. I wouldn’t care about this one, but I get sick of seeing the all-office email about cleaning out the fridge. It’s kind of implied by #2, but merits special mention.
  4. Separation of your drool and the water purifier/cooler is essential. You know I love working with you. That doesn’t mean I want to make out with you. Really, your cold sore looks so much better on you than on me. Please, please, please leave a bit of space between the shared water tap and you 6-month old water bottle. (Give some thought to one of those new, wide-topped bottles. You might be able to pick one up when you get your next bonus.)

Janitorial Etiquette (Bonus!)
You didn’t see this one coming, did you? Well, the truth of the matter is that not all violations of important office etiquette are self-centered A personality types. The folks doing the scrubbing and vacuuming need to also follow a few rules to keep the business running smoothly. There are a few essential rules of janitorial service that are so important that failure to follow them should lead to immediate dismissal. And deportation to country of citizenship. ( πŸ˜† I just couldn’t pass that up… You know you were thinking it.)

  1. The soap dispensers are the most important piece of machinery you service. They should be tested every time, and under no circumstances should they ever be allowed to be empty. If left empty for more than 24 hours, any janitorial staff found on the floor of the offending soap dispenser should be fair game for a swirly.
  2. Paper supplies are important too, leave extra. There should never be a scenario where paper products run short. Paper towels, toilet paper, and hand towels. There should extra of all of these be located wherever these products are used. The swirly rule applies here too, except that this time, the swirly recipient gets a quick toilet paper pre-wrap before the punishment is performed. (The point here is to stress the paper issue.)
  3. You have no say on office or break room layout. Just because you empty the trash or rinse out the coffee pots doesn’t mean you have a say in where they should live. While your attempts to optimize the layout might be appreciated, generally speaking its less productive for us to have to walk across the office to throw away the sheet of paper with our doodles of the boss swinging from a yardarm and being eaten by sharks. Optimal clean time does not equal optimal office productivity. The punishment? Oh, I think you know by now.

While I have made every attempt to be comprehensive here, I may have left off an item or two. Be creative and apply whatever sense is common in your location. I know you can handle it. πŸ™‚

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Fighting Momentum With Insane Friday Miscellany

Escape Graffiti - Lisbon, PortugalIt’s been a scary, fun, crazy and exhausting weekend. In keeping with the policies set forth in my post The Most Pointless Posts Ever, I make no apologies for my two-day blogging absence. Hey, a life not lived is not worth blogging about. You can quote me on that. (I’ll assume the check is in the mail.) But a blog at rest sometimes needs a bunch of random stuff to get moving again. And here that stuff is.

The Planned: Bachelor Party
The big planned event of the weekend was a Dave Nelson‘s bachelor party. I mention him by name so I can plug his photography website. Great guy, great photographer. (And since he didn’t invite me to the wedding, that’s the best gift I can give him! πŸ™‚ )

Contrary to what you might expect, this event did not involve generous displays of tramp stamps bouncing in time to suggestive popular music with good bass lines. (My blog gets so much search engine love from tramp stamps ever since my 12 Undead Fashion Atrocities post, I just had to mention them again. 😈 ) The evening carried a lighter rating, an “R” for off-colored humor, beer and cigars, and horribly played pool. If I hadn’t been playing pool, we might have gotten away with a PG-13, but there you go.

We spent the evening at the Funny Farm Comedy Club in the ‘burbs of Atlanta (map to it). In spite of being kind of hard to locate, even when you’re standing right outside of it, it’s a pretty fun place. Pool tables, tons of arcade games, darts and a pretty large bar. Anyway, a twenty got us in to see three comedians, none of them I’d ever seen before. I would have known the headliner if I had been watching Last Comic Standing recently. Our main attraction, Ty Barnett (official website), was runner up on the program. I can see why, he was pretty funny. Here for your viewing pleasure is a clip of his performance on the aforementioned show:

To be honest, he was actually funnier live than this clip, but this happens to be the clip that was sent to me with the bachelor party invitation. He only told a couple of the jokes you see here, and he introduced some new material. (Or so he said. Hey, it made us feel special.) It looks like there’s quite a few other videos of him up on YouTube, so you can probably get a pretty good feel for his act.

Of course my favorite part of the evening was the cigars. Based on my growing reputation as a guy who knows a thing or two about cigars (it’s two things, exactly πŸ™‚ ), I got to make recommendations on the cigars we should smoke. For about two minutes, I was a tobacconist, showing a friend through a large walk in humidor, advising on the price-to-quality ratio of several different brands. We wound up settling on the CAO Gold Robusto, which I just happened to review on this blog recently. The best part of all is that I got a free cigar out of it. (Now if I can just get CAO to start sending me cigars to review and recommend, I’ll be in heaven. That offer is also open to you Ashton… And you too Diamond Crown! πŸ˜€ )

The Unplanned: Bottle O’ Pills
I gotta be a bit careful with this part of the post. If it weren’t of a such a sensitive nature, I could give this post an awesomely catchy title. Exploitative, but it’d be catchy. And I’m passing up a huge opportunity for witty puns too.

All kidding aside, an old friend of mind who as been battling a substance abuse issue made an attempt on his/her own life. (That’s right, not telling you who it is, or what the person’s gender is.) At least, that’s what it looks like now. It involved a bottle of pills, the realization that a mistake was made, and a quick early morning trip to the hospital. My involvement was all phone and email. I was in the loop just enough to know that something was really wrong and have a good idea what had happened, but not enough to know how bad things were.

It was only short minutes before the bachelor party began that I was assured that this friend was both in reasonably good condition and that steps had been by his/her family to address my friend’s serious and worsening problem.

The Secretly Planned: The Layoff
Don’t worry, your humble blog-espondent is still gainfully employed. However, the same can’t be said about a large group of people I know and occasionally work with. On Friday, my favorite place to contract was officially bought out by a competitor for their non-human assets. As a clever person, you know that means that axe didn’t actually fall that day. It was raised into prime hacking position in preparation. The fun part is that the axe-ees knows this too and are now trying to figure out when it’ll begin lopping heads. But they have to pretend they’re not spending the all their remaining employment time speculating about severance packages and complaining. (I feel a pro-consulting, anti-salary post coming on… 😈 )

The weird thing about this past Friday was that aside from a little additional stress and a shortness of time to sleep, relax or blog, I was completely unscathed. It was as though I was in the eye of a vicious shit-storm, with cows and double-wide trailers circling wildly all around, but I was standing in a quiet field of butterflies smoking a cigar. Without burn issues. I guess it was kind of like being in shock, except without the life-threatening injury.

Anyway back in the more literal world, I actually don’t anything to complain about. And I’m not. I’m just tired.

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Six Unusal Free eBooks On My Reading List

The Sony eBook ReaderThe thing about blogging is that it tends to steal bits of your time away from daily activities, if you let it. And I’ve been letting it run rampant. Happily though, in my situation, it seems to mostly be cannibalizing my TV time, which is wasted time anyway. But unfortunately it has also been sneaking bites out of my reading time.

Now that my wife has read all the things she’s interested in reading on my Sony Reader (meaning I can use it again), I plan to reclaim some of that time. As an incentive to get myself reading again, I’ve picked a list of the most random, intriguing and off-the-wall books I could find for free on ManyBooks.

Here, more or less in the order I’ve found them, are my selections:

Trapped by Malays by George Manville Fenn – From what I can gather, this is a turn of the (last) century English colonial adventure story that takes place on the Malay peninsula (probably somewhere in modern day Malaysia). News and stories about Malaysia are few and far between where I live now, and I always make a point to check out anything I come across relating to my wife’s home. (I always have to chuckle whenever I hear the word “Malays”, it sounds just like “malaise“. It’s an almost irresistible call for a witty pun. Almost. πŸ™‚ )

The Practical Distiller by Samuel McHarry – As the subtitle to the books says, it’s “An Introduction To Making Whiskey, Gin, Brandy, Spirits, &c. &c. of Better Quality, and in Larger Quantities, than Produced by the Present Mode of Distilling, from the Produce of the United States.” Sounds like a must read for anybody interested in making a bit of moonshine or bathtub gin! This will be especially interesting to me because my friends took me on a tour of an Oregon distillery as part of my recent all-day bachelor party. (Eat your heart out, I got to try a little somethin’ right from the still! “Mmmm… this tastes like blindness!” πŸ˜€ )

King Solomon’s Mines and Allan Quatermain by H. Rider Haggard – These are the books that inspired the Allan Quatermain character in the truly unfortunate movie The League of Extraordinary Gentleman. If one thing positive can be said for that movie, it forever locked Sean Connery in my head as Allan Quatermain, which can only help make these books more fun to read.

The Hacker’s Dictionary by Eric S. Raymond – This is the youngest book on this list, being a mere 15 years old (1992) as of this writing. It also has the chance of being a book that is impossible to read in the conventional sense, if it truly is a dictionary. However, I’m gonna take a stab at it, and I may just fire up the movie Hackers (1995) to get me in the mood. (The most up to date version of this book can also be found online here, under the name The Jargon File).

The Confessions of an English Opium-Eater by Thomas De Quincey – All I can say is that it’s hard to pass up a title like that. Based on the excerpt listed with it, it could be a pompous, insufferable read. If it is, I hope it will so bad that its actually makes a good, but unitentional, comedy. Based on the wikipedia page dedicated to the book, it was considered both “taboo” during its Victoria era context, due at least in part to the description of Mr. De Quincey’s opium trips in great detail. Perhaps it will be a pretentious R-rated Alice in Wonderland?

If any of these sound interesting to you, check ’em out. Maybe we can compare notes later. And if you do enjoy them, consider making a small donation to ManyBooks. I plan to. They really provide an awesome service to eBooks fans. Happy reading!

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Reynaldo Ojeda, The One-Legged Salsa Dancer

In my on going quest to make up the finest premium content for my loyal readers (or accidentally stumble on something I can steal), I search the internet far and wide. I read many articles and blogs, and I watch countless hours of piano playing cats on YouTube. And it’s all because I have such a platonic crush on my readers.

But before this post fully shifts from cheesy to downright peeking-through-your-bedroom-window creepy, I’d like to introduce you to my latest YouTube gem. His name Reynaldo Ojeda and he salsa dances like a pro. A pro with only one leg. Prepare to have your mind blown and your bi-pedal lower half shaken…

I’m all about sequels. So let’s do that again. This time, how about we do it in a wild gold suit. And lets throw in a lot of Spanish talking that my readers won’t understand. And… action!

In case you can’t understand the news reporters in the second video, my sources say they said “Ha! Ha! You’ve been serrrrved!” (I don’t know what the heck they’re talking about, I’m still waiting for my beer. πŸ˜† )

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Brian’s Draw Poker: I’m About To Save You Twenty Bucks

Why God, why do people make these posts?No, I’m not talking about the card game. And well, I might not save you quite twenty bucks if you don’t have a paper clip handy and can’t steal one from the office. We’ll say 18 bucks, just in case you have to buy a box or two of paper clips.

On somebody’s blog, I left a comment discussing draw and burn issues I experienced with a CAO Gold torpedo. (As usual, I don’t remember exactly where that was, I’m a bit of a comment whore. 😳 ) I cooked up a theory on the spot that I could probably correct a plugged cigar with either a toothpick or a paper clip. Well tonight, I got to test that theory out. Luck me.

I was smoking the first of a five pack of Cuesta Rey 1884 natural lonsdales I picked up a couple of weeks ago from TodaysCigar (before they had their business model turned upside down by the anti-tobacco brigade). The cigar smoked pretty well for the half to two thirds, and then I started to have some serious draw issues. The cigar started going out, and there was just too much left for me to toss it. And then my draw-poking comment came to mind.

As luck would have it, I had a paper clip sitting on my desk, partially unbent, shaped to trip the little switch on a stubborn CD-ROM. The stars and planets had arranged themselves just right, and as Nostradamus no doubt predicted in signature cryptic manner, I was about to correct the draw of my cigar without a special hand made gizmo. And poke the cigar I did. (Don’t you just love how I’m drawing this out?)

I’m happy to report that it worked nicely. Initially I poked the cigar twice, just off center each time. Immediately the draw went from strangling to almost too good. And since I favor a looser draw, I was happy. Well, the cigar definitely had issues, and it plugged again a bit later. I poked it one more time with my handy mangled paper clip, and had no more draw-related trouble after that. That isn’t to say the cigar was miraculously transformed into a great cigar, it continued to have burn issues for the last third, including the tendency to abruptly go out. But at least I was able to smoke it without getting whiplash. (A full Cuesta Rey 1884 review coming later after I try a few more of them.)

Though I kind of hate to discourage anybody from buying Henry’s Signature Tools/Draw Corrector (I don’t know the tool’s exact title, it’s some combination of those words). Apparently they’re made by hand by a retired fellow named Henry, who does it because he really enjoys cigars and making cool gadgets. I’m tempted to pick one up just because to the back story. Either way, it’s always good to have options. You never know when you’ll be in a tight draw, somewhere far away from your preferred correction tool! πŸ™‚

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The Word On Cigars And Health Concerns

Random leaves could be tobacco leaves, but they're not...I don’t think there’s anybody left who doesn’t know that any use of tobacco, whether it be smoked, chewed, or rolled around in, may cause cancer. That’s no longer a mystery at this point, no matter what the soccer-mom juries decide in the next people v. tobacco class action lawsuit.

What is still a mystery, at least to me, is how dangerous cigars actually are, especially in comparison to cigarettes. Nearly all the bad, scary stuff you hear about tobacco assumes the tobacco in question comes in the form of a cigarette. It would seem to me that cigars must be less dangerous than cigarettes for three reasons:

  1. Cigar smokers typically don’t inhale the smoke. The ones that do are often also cigarette smokers and have a higher tolerance for inhaled smoke. (I don’t know this for sure, but I suspect inhaling cigars frequently might be the fast train to emphysema-land.)
  2. The tobacco used in cigars is less chemically processed and more natural than the tobacco used in cigarettes.
  3. Cigar smokers tend to smoke with less frequency than cigarette smokers.

If I left off here, I probably wouldn’t have said anything you haven’t heard before. And both of us would leave this blog with a nice warm fuzzy and go make that fuzzy a bit warmer by lighting up a good cigar. But since I’m not any sort of medical professional, you should know the above reasons are just a combination of my own crackpot theories, and the second hand information I have picked up in my years of stogie puffing.

Since I’m all about adding value, I decided to do a little leg work. So here, in no particular order are some tidbits I picked up from reputable sources online regarding the health risks of cigars:

Cigar Health Tidbits

  • One cigar a week is unlikely to have serious health consequences. (4)
  • In terms of health risks, puffing on a stogie but not inhaling is roughly the equivalent of smoking two cigarettes. Inhaling boosts the exposure to the equivalent of as many as three cigarettes. (4)
  • Smoking one to two cigars per day doubles the risk for oral and esophageal cancers. Smoking three to four cigars daily can increase the risk of oral cancers to more than eight times. (1)
  • The health risks associated with occasional cigar smoking (less than daily) are not known.(1)(3)
  • Cigar smokers who have a history of cigarette smoking are more likely to inhale cigar smoke. (1)
  • Cigarettes are generally contain less than 1 gram of tobacco each. Large cigars can contain between 5 and 17 grams of tobacco. Some premium cigars contain the tobacco equivalent of an entire pack of cigarettes. (1)(2)
  • The lung cancer risk from moderately inhaling smoke from five cigars a day is comparable to the risk from smoking up to one pack of cigarettes a day. (1)
  • The measurements of the carbon monoxide (CO) concentration at a cigar party and a cigar banquet in a restaurant showed indoor CO levels comparable to those measured on a crowded California freeway.(1)
  • Cigar consumption declined by about 66 percent from 1973 through 1993, but has increased more than 50 percent since 1993. (1)
  • Studies show that men who smoke at least five cigars a day and report moderate inhalation, experience lung cancer deaths at about two-thirds the rate of men who smoke one pack of cigarettes a day.(2)
  • Secondhand cigar smoke has much higher concentrations of toxins and carcinogens than do cigarettes.(2)
  • The sharp rise in the popularity of in gourmet coffee and microbrewery beers has led to a large increase in cigar smoking particularly among young and middle-aged white men (ages 18 to 44) with higher than average incomes and education.(3)
  • The risk of death from lung cancer for cigar smokers that do not inhale is not as high as it is for cigarette smokers, but is still three times higher than the risk for nonsmokers. (3)

The Verdict
It looks like I was actually not too far off with the three impressions I mentioned earlier. The key to enjoying cigars and and minimizing your potential health risks seems to be not inhaling the smoke. Since very few cigar smokers do that, it’s my opinion that there’s more hype than health risk to cigar smoking. (Something tells me that the late centenarian George Burns would agree with me on this.)

The thing I find troubling is that some of the statistics give the odds for various health issues, without ever identifying how many cigars a day they’re basing their facts on. Based on repeated references to the impacts of five cigars a day, I’m thinking that five is assumed to be average. I just have to ask, who the heck has the time and the money to smoke five cigars a day? That’s the problem with statistics like these, they’re assembled by non-smokers. πŸ™‚

And finally, I didn’t see any information on the comparison of the quality and purity of the tobacco between cigars and cigarettes. So my idea that the tobacco in a cigar is actually less damaging due to chemicals used in cigarette tobacco may just be a crackpot theory I made up while smoking a cigar. If you happen to come across information one way or the other on this, feel free to leave a comment and let me know!

OK, there’s a cigar waiting for me with my name on it… πŸ™‚

My Sources

  1. National Cancer Institute: Questions and Answers About Cigar Smoking and Cancer
  2. American Lung Association: Cigar Smoking Fact Sheet
  3. American Cancer Society: Cigar Smoking: Growing Popularity Amoung Young Adults
  4. University of Southern California: Cigar Smoking Remains Serious Health Risk (via CigarLife)

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Ad Killing: My Guilty Obsession

Escape Graffiti - Lisbon, PortugalFor this past Christmas, my parents bought us a subscription to a major monthly periodical. While the magazine isn’t my favorite, I do enjoy paging through it from time to time. As with any magazine it has its good articles, and a lot of over-hyped mediocre ones. But the thing I enjoy most about the magazine is tearing out the pages that have full-page ads on both sides.

And you’d be surprised how many of them there are. (Well, maybe you wouldn’t, if you’re still a member of the rapidly shrinking population that still pays for things like magazines and newspapers.) The magazine literally reduces in size by half. It’s immensely satisfying, but what’s troubling is that there is so many ads in a magazine that people actually pay for. If you think about it, similar content online is available online for free, and with less obnoxious, intrusive ads. I can’t remember the last time I saw two full page ads, back-to-back between the webpages of an article (or blog post) on the internet. Every now and then you do see a full page, “you’ll be redirected to what you want to see after staring at this ad for the next 10 seconds” advertisement, but I think those are generally frowned on, and pretty rare. So why on earth does any magazine think it’s a good idea to show a full page ad for soup, followed by a full page ad for knock-out pills, followed by three pages of technical medical jargon for said pill? It’s kind of like borrowing a fiver from your friend, and then punching him in the gut after he gives it to you. Only it’s the magazine publisher collecting the the money and delivering the sucker punch.

Don’t get the impression that I like online advertisements. I think they’re an online business necessity, and occasionally, when done right, they’re actually a service to the viewer. But for every well placed, content relevant ad I see online, I see a hundred stupid animated banners featuring idiots dancing because they got an average rate on their mortgage. How the hell is that relevant to checking my email? Or reading the latest serious news on lolcats? (I just really wanted to put “lolcats” and “serious” in the same sentence.) iPod-esque, manic dancing silhouettes are not only completely obnoxious when you’re using the internet for something work related, they’re distracting. And of course that’s the point. That’s why I’ve been serial internet ad-killer for the last 8 years.

My current preferred tool is FireFox’s popular Adblock Plus add-on. It comes with a huge database of ad spam URLs, which it automatically blocks. What I really like about the add-on is that it adds options to your right click context menu. When you see an offending, obnoxious, whack-the-lolcat ad, you simply right click on it, and select “Adblock Image” from the menu, and it goes away. Awesome. Take that stupid tattoo-a-mortgage-rate-the-back-of-some-guy’s-head ad! Ha Ha! If that isn’t fun, I don’t know what is. (Whether or not I actually know what fun is can be debated in the comments.)

Before executing that plaid-suited idiot that’s trying to push cars, auto insurance, or crack on you from his tiny box with the click of a button, I used to be a bit more hard core. How hard core? I used to update the windows’ hosts file to point all the worst offending domains (doubleclick, for instance, and no, I won’t link there) to the localhost IP address. (Non-technical translation: I tricked the browser into looking for ad images on my laptop instead of looking where they actually live.) If Adblock is a precision strike on a banner ad target, updating the hosts file is napalming the countryside of a advertiser’s domain. And I like napalm. 😈 I keep a desktop shortcut to the hosts file on all my PCs. Still. I like to think of it as the red button. And, yes, I have scanned through the source of a web page to find the source of particularly annoying ads.

If you share my passion eliminating ridiculous animated hippo banners and would like to learn more about my napalm approach, here’s some links to get you started. (Note: I have not looked deeply into these websites, and would advise caution in downloading or installing anything from them. Reading through their content should give you the specifics you need to make changes on your own.)

  • A premade ad-blocking hosts file available for download here.
  • Another one here.
  • One more, with bit more information here.

Of course, I should tell you that changing the hosts file may have unintended consequences. Sometimes in your attempt to block an ad, you break a website. (I’ve broken hotmail several times in the past.) Fortunately, you can easily fix that by removing whatever block you put in, but this process may be beyond less technical users. Adblock Plus is a good option for the less technical.

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The Greatest Charity Event Ever

Leering Grafiti PunkI wish I could take credit for the idea, but I can’t. Hell, I wish I could say I was even in attendance, but again, I cannot. But on Monday, I was made aware of the single greatest charity event I’ve ever heard of. The kind of charitable event that cannot help but be monstrously successful. The kind of event that not only could fund the entire operating costs of the American Cancer Society for a decade, but might actually cure the cancer of people that attend the event. What is this charitable event I speak of? Coed Charitable Mud Wrestling.

Surely I’m joking right? Nope. Somewhere in Atlanta this past weekend, a pool was filled with mud, and a small collection of women studying to become pharmacists (and a few bar tenders and waitresses) got together to raise awareness for breast cancer. By beating each other up in mud. And the best part? My friend who was in attendance, thought that he was being charitable.

The exchange was classic (paraphrased here for your reading enjoyment):

Friend: I gotta tell you this. Man, I saw these girls mud wrestle this weekend. It was great, and it was for a good cause. They raised, like, $1000 for breast cancer.
Me: Really? How’d that work? I does sound like it would raise some awareness…
Friend: Well, they charged $15 to get in, and it was $2 a beer from the keg.
Me: And you say this was for a charity?
Friend: Yeah, they raised $1000 to fight breast cancer.
Me: So how much did you give?
Friend: Well, I paid the door fee and paid for each beer…
Me: That was awfully charitable of you.
Friend: But I did pay extra for the beers… And I drank a lot of beer.
Me: Well that’s good. You were, after all, drinking for charity.
Friend (flustered): Um… yeah…
Me: It’s really a noble thing you did, sacrificing your Sunday afternoon to watch mud wrestling and drink beer… For charity.
Friend (busted!): Uncomfortable Laugh.

Of course, I went on to tell him that I was disappointed he didn’t invite me. I’m a pretty charitable guy myself, and would have been happy to sacrifice my Sunday afternoon if I knew it was really going to help people. Or if there happened to be a keg and mud wrestling.

But I stray from my point. Is this not the most amazing fund raising idea ever? If a small group of guys from Atlanta can get together and raise their blood-alcohol levels and $1000 for charity, think of the possibilities on a large scale! The end to world hunger might only be a couple of muddy city-wide weekend benders away! And instead of men staggering home to angry wives at the end of the evening, they could stagger home as heroes. Heroes who were willing to spend their pocket change and part of their liver function to help others.

I think I’m gonna start a foundation. Who’s with me?

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Mild And Tasty, The CAO Gold Robusto

CAO GoldFor some reason, I seem to be on a CAO kick recently. I wish I could say it’s because they’re sending me boxes and boxes of cigars to sample, but it’s not. Neither is it any sort of cool affiliate kickback. (C’mon CAO, who loves ya baby?) I hate to say it, but I think it’s their slick packaging and their gimmicky cigar lines (the space-age Vision humidor, the Sopranos line, etc).

Anyway, after 3 of these guys, I now have an official opinion on the CAO Gold.

Cigar Stats
Size: 5 x 50
Wrapper: Natural, Ecuadorian
Binder: Nicaraguan
Filler: Nicaraguan

The Pre-Smoke
The cigar was firm with very small veins in the wrapper. The most recent (and best documented) one I smoked both felt and appeared to be a little lumpy. In all but this last one the cap was fine and clipped without a problem. In the final cigar, it clipped awkwardly and the remainder of the cap fell off. 😦 Fortunately the cigar didn’t unravel or become noticeably looser so I was able to proceed. However, in the final third I did have an issue with one bit of the wrapper opening. I was able to use a bit of saliva to glue the leaf back in place for the rest of the smoke.

A quick note about the smell. The unlit cigar did have a bit of a barnyard/compost smell to it. I don’t know why that is, but I’ve smoke other cigars with a similar cold smell that turned out to be pretty good. And when I say barnyard smell, I’m talking about the smell of earthiness and hay, not the more interesting smell of a dairy farm. And you know what I mean. πŸ™‚

The Burn
The burn was great in all the robustos I smoked. (I had a plug problem with the torpedo.) There was a bit of unevenness and very minor blistering in the second third, but the cigar corrected itself and burned very nicely right through the final third. I may be partially to blame, but it seems that this cigar likes to burn a bit fast. In this last Gold, I made a conscious effort to slow it down a bit and there was a noticeable improvement in the smoke.

The cigar ashed twice, both times at roughly a third of the length of the cigar. And once on my leg. 😳 (You look away, thinking you’re holding it over the ash tray, and wham! Singed leg.)

The Flavor
The initial puff or two was very enjoyable. It tasted a bit caramelly to me at the very start and became very creamy for the rest of the first third. Here and there along the way into the second third I detected a bit of almond and papery wood.

The second third continued to be more and more woody. In the final third the flavor shifted toward earthiness and a bit of spice. The cigar’s flavor never got to be very spicy or peppery, even in the final puffs. And I smoked this cigar right until I couldn’t hold it any longer.

I enjoyed the aroma of the smoke of this cigar when I wasn’t puffing. It had a more distinct cedar smell to me second hand than it did when I was actually smoking it.

The Price
I paid a premium for this cigar. It cost me $5.35 for a single at a local strip mall shop, which is slightly higher than I would like to pay for it. The good news is that I have seen these for sale for $77 a box of 20 online, which lowers the price to $3.85 a cigar. That, I think is a great price for this cigar.

The Verdict
I like this cigar, and I think it’s worth the box price. It is a bit mild for more seasoned smokers, but I think it’s a great Sunday afternoon smoke. It shares some similarities with the Diamond Crown Maximus Toro I reviewed earlier (including construction issues), but comes with a much more reasonable price tag. It would be a good cigar to have on hand for guests, especially those that don’t smoke cigars often. At $3.85 a cigar, you won’t mind giving them away, and your friends won’t spend the evening leaning over the railing.

In short, I’d say it’s a buy with a solid B rating. And I guess I’m in good company, the August 1997 edition of Cigar Aficionado agrees with me. It gave the robusto an 89 rating. I’ve also heard elsewhere that its gotten ratings up to 90 (though with whom has not been disclosed).

What Other People Are Saying
Don’t take my word for it, here’s what other people have said about this cigar:

My Other Reviews
If you liked this review, you may like some of my other reviews:

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Up For Grabs: Free Month Of NetFlix

[UPDATE: These codes are out of date. You can find the latest codes here.]

I keep getting these things in the mail from NetFlix encouraging me to give coupons to people to sign up. (Or buy them a subscription, which is even more annoying.) I guess somebody in their marketing department thinks customers actually want to make the rounds in the office and the community as a probono salesman for them. At least Vonage used to give you a free month for anybody you helped sign up (may be they still do, I don’t know).

Well, just because I’m a nice guy and in the off chance somebody out there is interested in starting up a NetFlix membership, here’s all the information you need to snag a free month of service.

Go Here:

And use one of these priority codes:

  • M69434362225
  • M14994526905

You have until 6/30/07.

Note: I can’t guarantee that these codes will work, I assume it’s a first come, first serve deal. If you use one, let me (and everybody else) know by leaving a comment. The hard copies (which don’t have any more information that what you already have now) have already become confetti. πŸ™‚

[UPDATE: Wow, I really underestimated the amount of interest in this! 😯 As of the time of this update, this post has driven at least 70 hits to my blog. Around 45 of those was on a single day! And I didn’t submit this post to Digg or any similar social bookmarking site. Man, I really hope these codes are re-usable and that 70 people have gotten a free month! πŸ™‚

If NetFlix sends me another, I’ll be sure to post it. I’ll probably also post any other neat freebies like this I get in the future. Anybody want a 12 for 1 BMG membership? Lemme know, I can hook you up with that also! πŸ˜† ]

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