Hot And New: Brian’s Cigar Review Index

Antoni Gaudiโ€™s Sun MosaicThis is kind of a cheater post. It’s not that I don’t have unimportant and exaggerated things to say, quite the contrary. I’m just slammed with things right now. Things like work.

Yeah, I know what you’re thinking: “Brian, this blog is so brilliant, how is it that you have to work for a living?” Well, dear reader, it’s because I haven’t found a good way to allow you to shower me with cash and cigars.* (No booze, please, those bottles hurt like hail when they fall on you. Get it? Hail, hell? Oh, I kill me.) I know that’d you’d desperately like to give me your discretionary funds so I can sleep in, smoke cigars and write about things that irritate me. And review cigars, of course.

And that handily brings me back to my point. As I write more and more cigar reviews, it gets harder and harder for you to track down the review you desperately want to read. (Because you know there’s no chance you’re smoking that cigar until you know what Brian thinks of it. Very clever of you.) Well, I’ve anticipated your need, and have taken steps to reduce your blood pressure. I’ve created a cigar review index page and have linked directly to it from my sidebar (look for “> The Cigar Review Index” under the “Pages” heading). Feel free to bookmark it for easy access, because it’s not going anywhere, and I will keep it up to date. Enjoy! ๐Ÿ™‚

*I have found a relatively poor way for you to throw cash at me. Most of the images in my blog are pictures I’ve taken in my travels and they are available to buy as prints through my photography website. (Yes, this is a shameless plug, masquerading as a footnote.) If you’d like to shower me with cigars, which I will in turn review, use the About Brian page to send me a message. Cigars sent to me jump to the head of the review list!


Cabaiguan Belicoso Finos: She’s A Brick… Haaawwse!

CabaiguanContrary to what you might be thinking now, Brian has been smoking cigars. He’s been smoking a lot of cigars. Mild cigars, full-bodied cigars, mini-cigars, and even ACID cigars. In short, he’s been a hunky chimney. (Or is that chunky himney? Either way, a lotta smokin’.) It’s the kind of random profusion you’ve come to expect from this blog.

The hardest thing about writing these reviews is my policy of not reviewing a cigar until I’ve smoked it at least twice. (Thrice being preferable, but not always reasonable or possible.) With a fully loaded humidor, it’s hard to smoke the same cigar twice! I had planned that my next review would be of an ACID cigar, but I finished my evaluation of the Cabaiguan Belicoso Finos first! But enough with the palaver, bring on the smoke!

Cigar Stats
Size: 5 1/2 x 52
Wrapper: Ecuadorian
Binder: Nicaraguan
Filler: Nicaraguan
Price Per Cigar: $8-$10

The Pre-Smoke
Of course the very first thing I do with a cigar is take a few couple of sniffs. This cigar smells delicious. It has a rich, sweet almond or molasses smell (hard to put my finger on it).

The cold taste produced a faint grassy flavor with some caramel in one cigar, and only bits of spice in the other (which turned out to be plugged).

This is one solid cigar! Possibly the hardest cigar I’ve ever encountered. Neither cigar had any give to it. And cutting each was very difficult. In the first cigar, it cut through in one slow, finger-muscle-intensive chop. In the second, the cigar stopped the blades midway! And I was using a new double-bladed Xikar Xi2 cutter! That’s both impressive and disturbing.

In addition to being a great smelling cigar unlit, it is also very attractive looking. Very smooth, with fine veins.

The Burn
The first of these cigars was turned out to be plugged so badly that it was even impervious to Brian’s Draw Poker. Now that’s plugged. This same cigar also happened to have a crack in wrapper near the foot and it swelled and cracked several times near the burn as the cigar progressed. If you decide to buy one of these, I’d definitely recommend inspecting the cigar carefully before making your selection. (I was in a hurry. I think I was trying to get away with a covert purchase here… ๐Ÿ˜€ )

The second cigar was a much better experience. The draw was still a bit tighter than I’d like, but at least I didn’t nearly sprain my throat while puffing on it. Interestingly, it got tighter in the second third and loosened back up in the final third. It came as no surprise that the second cigar ashed much earlier than the first (which made to well over an inch).

The Flavor
With the flavor, I’m going to stick with the unplugged cigar. The plugged cigar didn’t have an unpleasant flavor, but I think it was skewed by the extra heat from labored drags. (Seriously, not worth the effort, but I was a man on a mission.)

The first third of the good cigar was nutty and a bit leathery and creamy. (I was taking taking an occasional drink of a Sweetwater 420 IPA, and that really brought out a toasty, grassy flavor.) I noted that this cigar stayed silky on the tongue well into the second third, where the flavor took on toasted nut, dry skin of almond (seriously) and graham taste. In the final third I got some cinnamon spice initially and the the return of the creaminess. And then it was kind like the cigar gave me a brief summary of the flavors in the previous two thirds. Which was actually kinda cool.

This cigar also had a lengthy, creamy nutty finish for the majority of the cigar.

The Price
Though it was a very nice looking cigar and a pretty good tasting, I think its a bit overpriced. And the problem with buying a box is that I think you’d lose too many of these guys to plugs. They’re just too tightly rolled. Even the cigar that smoked properly was pretty tight.

The Verdict
This is a pretty good cigar in spite of the tight draw. I was hoping that this might prove to be a cheaper alternative to the Diamond Crown Maximus (I really loved the flavor of that cigar). It didn’t live up to it. I would smoke this cigar again, but not at this price. I would give consideration to picking up a few more on CigarBid if I could secure a good price. Also, if you happen to be in a fire fight and you have a hole in your bullet proof vest, this cigar could be a life saver! And that hollow point just might loosen the draw for you! ๐Ÿ˜‰

Quick Summary
Like It: YES
Buy It Again: MAYBE (Not at this price.)
Recommend It: MAYBE

What Other People Are Saying
I looked around, but I didn’t find all that many reviews of this cigar! I guess it could be because, according to the guy in the video below, there are only five people in the world rolling these beauties.

And I even found a YouTube video review of this cigar. This guy loves it, gives it a 9.5/10 and wants to sell you one. And he’s fun to listen to.

My Other Reviews

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Sucker-Punch Sopranos Sunday

Antoni Gaudiโ€™s Sun MosaicSunday beat me up something horrible. Like a guy with and overdue debt in the back alley behind the Bada Bing, I went to bed last night hurtin’. But not for the reason you might think. I wasn’t experiencing physical symptoms resulting from getting emotional over end of The Sopranos. Oh sure, I watched it. I wouldn’t miss it. A team of wild dancers from The Bing couldn’t keep me from it. (I think. I’d really like to test that theory to be sure. ๐Ÿ˜ˆ )

What had me down and out, more worthless than Homer Simpson at a nuclear power plant, was the sun. Did you know an afternoon drinking in the sun is the express train to a fantastically horrendous hangover? It may also surprise you that high SPF sunblock is not an adequate barrier between you and the ol’ temple jackhammer. Somehow, I forgot these important life lessons as I floated there on Lake Lanier smugly puffing on an Ashton Maduro #10 and knocking back Old Scratch Ambers. (That’s a pretty awesome combination, I might add. Minus the sun on my formerly pale skin, that is.)

So I had already been worked over by the time I was lying listlessly on the couch in front of boob-tube, double-fisting cold-brewed coffee (a subject for another post) and tankard of ice water. Lemme tell ya, in that scene where Tony walks in the hospital room were Silvio lies comatose, I really identified with Silvio. So it was, with squinty eyes, a cranium in an invisible vice, and lots of fluids I watched the final episode of the Sopranos.

But before I get into what I thought about the Sopranos series finale, let me just say, I called it. Well, sort of. I really saw one of two likely scenarios happening, based on the second to last episode. In the first, and probably most popular scenario, a giant, bloody massacre, reminiscent of the gangland slayings back in the prohibition era. While that might have made for some amazing cinematography, with intentional visual effects to clue the audience in on the timelessness of mobster violence, it really seemed unlikely to me.

These guys are no dummies. The head honchos of both sides kept low profiles, they both knew that a face to face confrontation would be one neither of them would walk away from. So an Italian restaurant full of well dressed Italian men shooting each other was really unlikely. Tony’s team had already holed-up in two story house, so you knew it wasn’t gonna go down in The Bing either. If the series was going to end bloody, the second to last episode would have been the last. Leotardo‘s goons screwed up. To win it they had to hit Tony first and then Silvio instead of wasting time on Bobby. Whacking Bobby first was like screaming “Yo Joe!” right before your sneak attack on Cobra’s headquarters: stupid. Fatally stupid.

So the other scenario, and the one I expected, was the Tony-lives-and-life-goes-on (or Tony-wins) scenario. And as it turns out, I was right. As I mentioned in the discussion for the bloodbath scenario, both bosses are smart guys. It just turns out that Tony had better connections, which both gave him Leotardo’s whereabouts and got him out of hot water. In the end, it probably was his counseling-enhanced diplomatic skills that saved his bacon. There was a reason that study was brought up in the previous episode.

OK, so what did I think of the end? I thought it was great. I liked it for a number of reasons. And I’m gonna give ’em to you in list form.

  1. It pissed a lot of people off. And that makes for a lot of fun reading. Mr. Chase essentially said, “Hey, this is my show. It ends how I want it to end. You gotta problem with that?” Yes, a lot of people do! But nobody can accuse the guy of being a sell out. ๐Ÿ™‚
  2. It was unexpected (by people other than me). And I kept looking at the clock and thinking things like, “OK, Tony, you just gotta make it another 8 minutes.” I was pretty sure I was right, but I had to keep watching to be sure. It could have turned on a dime.
  3. It leaves the door open for a movie (or future episodes). This is the real reason I wanted it to work out the way it did. I didn’t want this series to end, and I like the idea that there could be a Sopranos movie on the horizon. (I don’t know how well the show would translate to a movie, but I still like the idea.) Or better yet, the series could be resurrected, bringing us back to items #1 and #2.
  4. It was consistent. Nothing about this story was ever clean, or neatly tied up with a bow. It’s been a dirty mess since before episode one and is still a dirty mess after the final episode. I watched this final season wondering how on earth they were ever gonna tie everything up. But as the show stomped forward, ignoring things unresolved, it became clear to me that it couldn’t realistically be done in one episode. Nor would there be an attempt to.
  5. It made a boring meal at a restaurant the most tense and talked about thing on TV. If you weren’t tense watching the final scene you were on something. And whatever that was, it was probably illegal.

As one of the articles I read roughly said, you get the impression that life continues, but you can’t watch it happen. And that is really pissing a lot of people off. People like Nikki Finke, who thinks people should express their lack of approval for the show’s final episode by pulling their HBO subscription. Talk about entertainment, peoples’ angry reactions to the show is possibly more entertaining than the show itself!

Oh yeah, one last thing. The second sucker-punch of the day. The abrupt black screen. Yeah, I’ll admit it, I was caught off guard by that. (My cable service is pretty crummy, so it wasn’t the first time my screen went black during the Sopranos.) When the screen went blank, you would have thought somebody spoke out of line in the back office of The Bing. My wife and I in unison yelled “OHHHH!” ๐Ÿ™‚

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6 Words To Get Your Teeth Drilled To

Happy Shootinโ€™ DudeOK, I’m back. The great thing about sneaking in a post after midnight, is that it makes your absences appear less long or noteworthy. To look at my calendar, you’d think I’d only been gone a day. Where was I? How long was I gone? What was I smoking? Did it involve paramilitary and dense jungle? I’m not telling. You have to pay for that kind of information. What you can have for free is a list of words I hate.

So anyway, everybody has them. Words that make you shiver uncomfortably like a duck just walked over your grave. (If you’ve never experienced that shudder, don’t worry, that doesn’t mean you’ll live forever, it just means you’ll be buried at sea. Glad I could help.) Words that you wish would be expunged from the language immediately and without fanfare to make way for new, useful swear words. Well, I have them anyway, and that’s what really matters for the purposes of this post.

Obey Andre!Meme. I first encountered this word a year or two ago on a website that tracked stenciled graffiti and how similar stencils appeared unexpectedly in different parts of the world. (It could have been this site or this one or some other that no longer exists, I’m not sure.) For some reason, a stylized head of Andre the Giant seemed to be appearing all over the place and with no apparent explanation. (Note image to the left. I just saw this sticker under a drive in window at a Wendy’s this past weekend.)

At first, I thought it was terribly clever concept, this meme thing. But it wasn’t too long before it became painfully obvious to me that this word had become a catch-all cliche, who’s actual purpose is to indicate the hipness and intelligence of the user rather than convey useful information. Of course in no time flat it started appearing everywhere online, all the time, to describe anything. In short “meme” is the text equivalent to Emo glasses. The best part is that the word is, quite literally “me” and “me” shoved together, as if to say “me too” or “notice me, I’ve very trendy.” Enough already. What’s wrong with a word like “trend” or “concept” or “idea”? Oh yeah, I forgot, those words don’t automagically grant you hipness you haven’t earned.

Milk. No I don’t have it in for all words that start with M. I dislike this word because it’s unpleasant to say, unpleasant to hear people say, and because I’m not down with the nipple nectar. When you see me ordering a overpriced coffee concoction with soy, it’s not because I’m watching my figure (though I probably should), or because I’m Northwest granola. It’s because tree-hugger juice is the lesser of two evils in my book. The real stuff just grosses me out (though it is usually tolerable after it’s been steamed). And it sits really badly with the ol’ digestive system.

Oddly enough, I’m fine with the word “ilk” (of cliche “you and your ilk” fame). So maybe I do have a problem with ‘M’. No, wait, I like cigars with a Maduro wrapper, so it isn’t that. It must be a faulty synapse.

Symbology. Somehow, I managed to make it most of the way through a literature-heavy school career without ever hearing this word. And the first time I heard it, I thought the person saying it was an idiot with a malaprop problem. But then I did a bit of investigation. It’s a real word (damn!), but I was right about the idiocy/malapropism diagnosis. The speaker really meant symbolism, a word I much prefer.

If this word looks (or sounds) familiar to you, it’s probably because you read it in one of Dan Brown‘s books, or saw it in the movie version of The Da Vinci Code. While his use of the word is technically correct, I can’t get over how stupid the word sounds. I probably have my malaprop friend to thank for that.

Libation. I keep hearing this word, and it’s really starting to bug me. And I think it’s because nobody just says “libation”. There’s always pause for dramatic effect before or after the word, as if to silently trumpet a triple-word-score Scrabble masterpiece. Or it’s simply over pronounced, with artistic flair and false pompous accent. Dammit, can we just get back to having “drinks” or “pints” or just “beer”? Unless, of course, you really are pouring a ceremonial beverage upon the ground for the gods. In that case, forgive me and let me get out of the way. I don’t want to get any libation on me.

Simplistic. I don’t think I’ve ever heard this word used where it wasn’t being misused, or at least mistreated. Fortunately, it’s been quite a while since I’ve heard it, which is just the way I like it. If this word comes to mind, think twice, you’ll probably realize you’re adding a syllable for no good reason.

I’m heavily biased against any words that end in -istic. They strike me as the lazy way of communicating any idea. Or really, not communicating an idea, communicating where the idea is likely to be found. It’s kind of like an obscure pun without the humorous payoff. And if I’m gonna do your work for you, I want to at least be amused. As I’ve said before, if you put no thought into your words, don’t be terribly surprised if I don’t put any thought into them either. “Simplistic” enough for ya?

Greedy. I know what you’re thinking, and no, I’m not about to quote Gordon Gecko as part of my rationale. I just think this is the single most ironic word in the English language. When was the last time you heard somebody use this word (aside from your mother) when it wasn’t motivated by a measure of greed equal to that of the accused? Think about it. (But not too hard, let Brian do the thinking for you. It’s just easier that way.) This word makes a judgment call that the user isn’t qualified to make, unless they are speaking about themselves. And somehow it’s thrown around all the time in our supposedly non-judgmental society without any sense of irony.

Take for example, Paris Hilton. Some might say she’s being greedy collecting six figures for an appearance at a restaurant. But hey, you don’t know how her trust fund works. Maybe she’s on a strict budget of $20,000 a month. If, for example, she was nursing a spendy coke and Cristal addiction, it’s entirely possible that she’s living trust fund check to trust fund check. That stuff is expensive, especially if she has to share it with whomever she’s filming with on any given day! That 6 figure check will help keep jewelry out of hawk while she’s skiing down that mountain of white powder, knocking back champagne bottles and driving on an suspended license. In this scenario, I wouldn’t say Miss Hilton was being greedy, I’d just say she had expensive lifestyle requirements.

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “who the hell died and left you in charge of the English vocabulary?” Well, as I mentioned earlier, I’m not going to discuss the things that took place during my deceptively short absence. Just keep an eye on the papers. If you see something noteworthy, I may have had something to do with it. Unless it was illegal. In that case, it totally wasn’t me. I have witnesses.

Well now you have ’em. A gold star to the person that comes up with the most annoying (or creative or funny) comment containing all these words. (Comments about in-again-out-again jailbird are optional.) You know you were going to write one anyway! ๐Ÿ˜‰

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5 Alcohol Facts You’re Better Off Not Knowing

But of course, you’ll make a point of finding out anyways. I’ve been thinking about (i.e. putting off) writing this post for at least a month now, or however long it’s been since I finished reading Alcoholica Esoterica. This book is a great tongue-in-cheek read that covers all the miscellaneous trivia you could ever possibly want to know about alcohol. And at least a few things you just don’t want to know. Like British admiral Nelson being preserved in a giant giant keg of rum after he was killed in a battle at sea. And the ship hands continuing to drink said rum. (Now you know, and there’s no amount of scrubbing, showering and gargling that’ll clean that tidbit from your gray matter. You’re welcome. ๐Ÿ˜ˆ )

Here, in no particular order, are the promised facts about booze you can live a happy life not knowing. (Warning: bringing these items up at parties will not make you popular.)

Yeast poop. When you get right down to it, the happy juice that makes you such a fun guy in your 20’s and makes you a fat irritable bastard by your 30’s is yeast poop. Yeast eat sugar and drop a big, steaming loads of booze wherever they go. And they fart a lot too. Ever wonder what gives your bubbly its sparkly magic? About a million little guys with Irritable Bowel Syndrome, that’s what. Kinda reminds you of that Futurama Slurm episode, doesn’t it? (Sorry, couldn’t find the clip I’m thinking about on YouTube. You have been spared! ๐Ÿ˜‰ )

[UPDATE: Eternal thanks to Dana for finding this awesome flash video of the process on the BBC website! (Read article it came from here.)]

Beer, our debt to ancient Sumerians. We owe beer to a lazy Sumerian with a bad sense of hygiene, an iron stomach and a bunch of equally shiftless friends. Rumor has it that the first beer was a loaf of bread that was left on the sill too long. With ample time, the airborne paradise-poopers previously discussed collected on it and started doing what they do best. So when our lazy ancient brother took a mouthful (you know he didn’t bother to slice it), it knocked him on his ass. When he woke up he went to all his friends and said “you gotta try this”. Proving that nature rewards people for being slobs. Or makes them blind.

The bride’s ale. We got the word “Bridal” from drunk, slurring 19th century Englishmen. Looking for any excuse to drink, those lushes from across the pond determined it was important to have a “Bride Ale” to celebrate his fellow man’s loss of independence. (Any excuse would do in the 19th century, there were also “foot ales”, “walking stick ales”, and “cuckoo ales”. Cuckoo ales, because there’s 24 reasons to drink in a day!) Of course the drinking made the lads hungry and thus the “Bride Ale” evolved into the modern day wedding reception. And before long the word “Bridal” came to refer to everything involved with getting hitched.

Beauty in the naughtiness of fishes. Prolific alcoholic W.C. Fields had a concise reason for not drinking water. And I quote: Fish f*ck in it. The irony of course is that yeast poops in his beverage of choice, which is arguably more disagreeable to the palate, theoretically. Thus proving that whatever you choose to consume, something nasty happened in it on its long journey to you mouth.

The magic of yeast flatulence. We already covered the source of bubbly, but I don’t think you yet realize the full, other-worldly potency of this gas. Did you know that a raisin dropped in a glass of fresh flute of champagne will continuously circulate from the bottom to the top and back again until the end of time? (Or until the yeast farts are all spent, whichever happens first.) Try it. And do me a favor, let me know how it works. I haven’t had a chance to try it yet.

Bonus Fact: Toasting the declaration. Did you know the founding fathers of the U.S. toasted the signing of the declaration of independence? They did. Care to hazard a guess what they toasted with? I can guarantee you got it wrong. It wasn’t Sam Adams! It was Madeira wine. Never heard of it? I’m not surprised. Neither had I before we went to Portugal. It’s the indestructible cousin of port wine that comes from Portuguese islands 360 miles off the coast of Morocco. And it was precisely this beverage’s ability to withstand years of exposure to the open air, unscathed, that allowed it to make the long sea journey to the colonial United States.

If these tasty tidbits have your mouth watering for more, go grab a brew, and consider picking up the book. (But not at the same time, I think that’s illegal in most states.) Anyways, I really enjoyed the book, and I think you will too. (You know you need a new book for the restroom, you’ve already read that September issue of Reader’s Digest cover to cover twice, and it wasn’t all that great of an issue anyway.) And because I’m such a nice guy, I’ll tell you that you may be able to find it in on of those outlet mall book stores for around four bucks. I did. (Sorry Sony Reader aficionados, it’s not listed in the Sony eBook store. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ Hey, I tried.)

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The Transformers Trailer You Haven’t Seen

You haven’t seen this preview for the Transformers movie for a couple of reasons. 1.) It’s not part of the move and 2.) It wasn’t made by anybody working on the movie. But don’t let that deter you. Watch this, it’s awesome.

Michael Smith and Joe Mangione Transformers Animation

So what the heck is this then, if it isn’t from the upcoming Transformers movie? It’s the hard work of several people including one Michael Smith who badly wants to get a job with Industrial Lights and Magic (or possibly with the people working on the upcoming movie or any sequels to it). And frankly, after watching the clip above, and this clip on MSN Soapbox, I want him to get that job too.

[UPDATE: Where are my manners? Thanks Scott for the for the heads up on this! If you like these video clips, spread the word and get these guys a job! And consider making a donation to Scott’s Team Hanselman and the fight to eliminate diabetes! ]

Want to know more about this guy and his work, check out his website. Or better yet, check out his Transformers page and get the latest word and video clips!

Want to compare Mr. Smith’s (and crew!) Transformers to those in the actual movie? Here’s the trailer for your viewing pleasure:

Transformers Live Action Movie Trailer

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If You Name Your Baby After A Plane, You Might Be An Asshole

Why God, why do people name their kids so abominably?I don’t think there’s a better indicator of criminal levels of self indulgence and narcissism than baby names. This morning, as I was staggering in a caffeine-less fog to the break room to get my fix, there were a few people standing around discussing the imminent download of a brand new bundle of joy and noise. The soon to be happy father was telling the lady he was speaking with how he was glad to be a man. You know, the stock nonsense all guys say know whenever pregnancy is being discussed.

Before I get into the meat of the issue at hand, I want you to know I’ve already made plans to handle this scenario. I’ve determined if my wife and I every decide to grace society with a little one-two punch of brains and looks, I’m going to pre-record all of these inane phrases on a little voice recorder. When the subject comes up, I will motion with a finger (not that one) for a moment so I can pull out my pre-recorded statements and press play. And blammo, ten solid minutes of cliche, semi-apologetic, self-deprecating things all guys are required to say whenever the subject of pregnancy and birth comes up. I’ll then whisper that they can drop the recorder off in my office when they’re done. I want you to know this now, so you can plan to make your own 10 minute recording full of “Ohhhs”, “Ahhs” and “Uh Huhs”. That way we can both turn them on, leave them in the break room and get back to work.

So anyway, back to the baby talk. After delivering his charming schtick about reproduction and gender differences, they got onto baby names. The exchange when a bit like this. (I’ve changed the names here to protect, well, myself. But not so much that the point is lost. In the off-chance this guy Googles his kids name, I don’t want him to find this, put two and two together and start a Peter Griffin vs. The Giant Chicken fight with me. It just looks like too much effort.)

The Exchange

Lady: So have you decided what to name her yet?
Dadzilla: Well, we’re not going to commit to it for sure until we fill out the forms, but we like Cessna.
Lady: Oh, Cessna. That’s cute.
Dadzilla: Yeah, we were going to go with Emelia, but then we realized that it’s the name of my brother’s ex-wife. So we were walking through an airplane museum, and it just occurred to us.
Lady: Oh yeah, that’d be bad.
Dadzilla: Yeah, it’d make holidays difficult.
Lady: Isn’t Cessna the name of a character on a TV show?
Dadzilla: I think so, but I’ve never seen it. I wonder if it’s a good or bad character? [This last part a bit louder, probably with the intention that I’d overhear it and fill them in on the characters details if I knew them. I didn’t.]
Lady: Hmm, I don’t know either.
Dadzilla: Anyway, I like different, creative names. Different is good.

And I left them there. I had work to do, coffee to drink and staples to drive into the skin between my fingers. On the short hike back to quiet bliss of my office, I was thinking, “you stupid bastard, you’re talking about a person’s name, not a new marketing slogan!” It true, some unfortunate girl will be saddled with the name “Cessna” her entire life. She’ll hear no end of witty innuendo about taking a flight in Cessna and kids will call her “Cessna pool”. (These are just the tip of the iceburg, I came up with these in five minutes, and I’m not even going to school with her.) And why? Because you, dadzilla, are a selfish, self-indulgent asshole. Erin, Mary or Sarah isn’t good enough for you, you want people to hear your baby’s name and tell you how very, very clever you are. Your bundle-in-transit isn’t a pet, if you want to call something Cessna, why don’t you get a poodle?

OK, you knew it was coming. Here, in list form, are Brian’s rules of thumb when it comes to naming your little diaper slayer. Hat tip to fellow-Georgian Jeff Foxworthy (or a blatant rip off, you take your pick) of Blue Collar Comedy Tour fame. (Please note, I’m referring to English first names only, I just don’t know that much about baby names around the world to be fully inclusive with my insults. Feel free to use these as applicable in your culture. Your mileage may vary.)

  • If you name your baby after a plane or any other mode transportation, you might be an asshole. (This one could be universal.)
  • If you give your baby a name that includes punctuation or accent marks, you might be an asshole.
  • If you give your baby a name that includes no vowels, you might be an asshole. (Or you just can’t spell, and then you’re probably a Redneck. Seek Foxworthy’s help with this one.)
  • If you name your baby after rocks, trees, streams or shrubbery, you are a hippie, and probably an asshole too. (Flowers are excluded, it’s just too late to ban them now.)
  • If you give your baby a first name that rhymes with the last name, you are most certainly an asshole.
  • If you give your baby three or more middle names, you might be a pompous asshole. (I’ll allow two, otherwise, we’d have to say J.R.R. Tolkien’s parents were assholes. And that’s borderline nerd-sacrilege.)
  • If you give your baby a name that’s an insult in any language or dialect that uses your alphabet, you’re probably a lazy asshole. (Seriously, you need to do your homework here. To this day, I guy I know named “Wally” cannot travel to the U.K.)

This has been a public service announcement from your friend at Brian’s Random Thoughts. Brought to you by Citizens Against Stupid Monikers.

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5 Tips For I.T. Recruiters

You donโ€™t have to look like this to be a good I.T. consultant.I’m no xenophobe, some of my best friends are xenos. (Take a moment to let that sink in and have a hearty chuckle. The rest of this post will be happy to wait.) Seriously though, I just don’t get I.T. recruiting firms that hire recruiters with nearly-impregnable foreign accents. A little exotic spice is one thing, a mouth full of proverbial peanut butter (or the 300-horse power galloping tongue) is another matter entirely. I’m also at a loss as to why anybody would get into the field that doesn’t love sales and marketing. (OK, you don’t have to love it, but you have to at least be good at it.) I’ve been crossing paths with more and more recruiters of late who, for one reason or another cannot possibly be successful in this line of work because they simply can’t communicate effectively. And it just blows my mind.

For those of you who don’t work in the eccentric and introverted world of technology, bear with me, this will make sense in the end. Recruiters are essentially the I.T. professional’s marketing department. You put your resume up online, and they give you a call and pitch you a job. If you’re interested (i.e. they offer to pay you enough to afford both your mortgage and your expensive cigar habit), they then pitch you to the employer who actually has the job. If the recruiter is any good, and you don’t stick both feet in your mouth at the same time during the interview, they’ll not only land you a job, but they’ll actually remember who you are by the time the contract is over. And if they’re great, they’ll buy you a lunch. (Or sometimes they do that because they’re snagging an unusually large percentage of your hourly contract rate.) Make sense? Quick review: I.T. Recruiters are pimps: They find you, they find the John, and they take a percentage. But unlike the world’s oldest profession, these technological pimps actually have to do some work and a lot of talking. (And I don’t have a desk on a street corner.)

As a guy who really gets around in a professional sense (if there was a communicable disease specific to the I.T. world, I’d not only have it, I’d be infecting people) I have a reasonable grip on sales and marketing. You’ve got to. You’re selling you in every interview. (One more for The Quotable Brian!) If there’s one thing that’s as important as technical prowess, it’s your ability to communicate and establish report. We’ve all seen guys that couldn’t (insert your occupation’s primary action verb here) their way out of a wet paper bag. But damn were they a heck of a lot of fun to hang out with, and they knew everybody. Even people in senior management. And they got you invited to parties that you weren’t cool enough to get into on your own. That’s just how powerful the ability to build relationships can be. It’s the jet fuel that powers the Peter Principle.

So back to the I.T. recruiters. These guys have to both sell themselves to you, and sell themselves and you to the person who has the job. So basically, they have to be the best sales people in the world, right? You’d think so. And you’d be right about fifty percent of the time. The rest of the time it’s absolutely the opposite. They’re people that are extremely uncomfortable with the phone. They’re people with really thick accents or even worse, weak grasp of language du jour. And they’re people who read a pre-written script and know nothing about sales, and are clearly not at all interested in you either. The thing I don’t get is how they stay in business. And why they all seem to call me.

Of course, its easy enough to shake my head and complain about it. God knows I do plenty of that. It’s more challenging to try to fix it. And I’m all about challenges and fixing stuff. It’s what I do. So here are a few pointers for my awkward I.T. Recruiters friends that I’ve cooked up over the years. Follow these, and I can guarantee you success… in not pissing me off when we talk. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Get a speech coach or study your target accent. If you find that people in your chosen market have a great deal of difficulty understanding you, study the accent. Or better yet, study the Australian accent (if English is the language du jour). I read an article recently (sorry, I can’t find it, I really tried! ๐Ÿ˜ฆ ) of all the English language dialects, the Australian accent is most universally understood form. And if you’re doing business in the United States, it has the benefit of sounding really cool.
  • Develop and refine your rap. I’m not talking about clever rhymes carefully laid down over old disco hooks. Giant diamond-encrusted chains that spell “Stallion” in an exaggerated script font are not required. (But who knows, maybe you’ll find it helpful. If you can afford one, you’re taking too big a percentage of my take!) Everyone in every business has one, even if they don’t realize it. It’s your stock set of brainless words, phrases and jargon you can use even when you’re drunk, half asleep and hanging upside down in a tree. They’ve been polished with usage, they roll off the tongue, and you can mix them into every conversation with ease. Find them and use them. If a phone call goes extremely well, consider harvesting some of the dialog for use later.
  • You’re a sales person, speak accordingly. I literally cringe every time a recruiter calls me and says they have “a requirement” for such and such a developer. Not to be a heartless prick or anything, but I don’t give a rat’s ass about your requirement. I have plenty of my own, and they all involve late nights, walking on water and having it done by yesterday. You need to remember that you’re selling me on the idea of taking the job through your firm. Potential customers want to hear about what’s in it for them, which is why you’ll never hear the term requirement used by any successful recruiter. Successful recruiters speak of positions, or better yet, opportunities. Those words get you excited, requirements weigh a prospect down or scare them away.
  • Not listening. I can’t tell you how much I hate it when I tell a recruiter that I’m not on the market, only to have them go on with a monotonous scripted speech about the position anyways. I’m not on the market. That means you’re calling me at work, on my customer’s dime. Sure, you can ask me if I know anybody else that’s looking and send me your contact details, but that’s it. I gotta go before you get me fired. I don’t wanna hang up on you, but I have once or twice when somebody just doesn’t get it. And don’t you dare try to hard sell me. I will tell you off. (Honestly happened, and the “requirement” was a lot worse than my current gig! ๐Ÿ˜ˆ )
  • Poor email grammar or awfully formatted template job forwards. If you make it obvious that you’ve spent zero time to contact me by email, I’ll spend zero time considering your email. It is not OK to contact me with SMS/text message grammar, I won’t take you seriously, and I won’t trust you to pay my invoices. Ya rly! Of course, I’m a bit more forgiving in tougher job markets. But right now, the ball is totally in my court. ๐Ÿ™‚

I don’t want anybody thinking I’m beating on visa holders/legal immigrants to this country. I’m not one of those guys screaming “they took our jobs!”

And you know why? To begin with, my wife is a legal immigrant to this country. But more importantly, they didn’t take your job, I did. Any position I fill is a job outsourced or one that didn’t exist to begin with. I’m a consultant. (And a bastard.) ๐Ÿ˜€

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Cohiba Pyramide: Is You Is, Or Is You Ain’t My Cuban?

The Possibly Cuban CohibaThis post is equal parts cigar review and international tale of intrigue. Well, actually, it’s more crackpot theory that happens to turn into a cigar review at the end. Anyways, the mystery is, what cigar did Brian smoke on the way back from the golf course over the holiday weekend?

The cigar was given to me by some friends who live in my building, fresh from a trip back from an exotic tropical location. (I know it sounds like I’m saying they went to Cuba, but I don’t think they did. I’m actually not sure where they went. Sorry to lead you on like that.) They know I’m really into cigars, and they swapped the cigar for the cookies my very cool wife decided to bake for our neighbors.

I’m no dummy, I immediately did some research. I started out with one of the better sources of counterfeit Cuban cigars I know of, the Cigar Aficionado’s counterfeit Cuban hall of shame. (I recommend you check it out before you try picking one up on your international travels. Also, as Bob and Dale of the Dog Watch Social Club will tell you, make sure you’re buying from a legitimate Habanos S.A. merchant.)

Well from what I can tell, the band is legitimate. So I smoked that baby after a long hard day of five-putting (but hey, my drives have improved and I actually got to experience playing on the fairway for once). And I really enjoyed it.

Case closed, right? Not quite. In doing some research to compile the cigar’s stats, I noticed something disturbing. Sure, the band looks legit, but the pyramid has two bands! Mine only had the one. And it fit very loosely. Take a look at the picture below I pilfered from a Canadian cigar website. Mine did not have the gold and black second band.

Actual Cuban Cohiba PyramidFigure 1: The Real Deal.

So it’s fake then, right? Well, maybe. What we have here is a couple of possible scenarios.

1.) It’s Cuban, and the bands were taken off. To facilitate passage through customs, it’s often recommended that people remove the bands from their tasty contraband. If that’s the case, it’s likely that the second band was either lost or forgotten about.

2.) It’s Cuban, and the band fell off. This cigar was, what I like to call, suitcase-pressed. That’s kind of like a box pressed, except the manufacturer has nothing to do with it. It’s generally caused by bumping into books, flip flops and tourist trinkets while hiding out in your luggage. As long as there is a band there, it’s likely that you wouldn’t realize one was missing. This scenario is probably less likely, as it would have to slide off over the other band on the cigar. The pyramid shape makes it hard to slide off the other end.

3.) It probably not a Cuban, and definitely not a Cohiba. In this case, the band was taken from another, possibly smoked, cigar of unknown origin and put on my cigar. This other cigar might be a factory second from Cuba (best case scenario), or some other more available, less expensive cigar.

I think it was scenario 1 or 2, but I can’t rule out unlucky number 3. In this case, the third time is not the charm. Unless it saves me from jail time. But that doesn’t seem a likely concern. ๐Ÿ™‚ (Did I say I smoked it? I meant my good friend and Cuban penpal Alberto Hernandez smoked it. We commonly speak of each other as I. It’s a funny inside joke that I haven’t made up yet.)

Anyway, let’s get to why I think mine might have been the real suitcase-pressed deal, the review:

Cigar Stats
Size: 6 x 52 (Torpedo/Pyramid) (Assuming it’s a Cuban, I didn’t measure it.)
Wrapper: Cuba?
Binder: Cuba?
Filler: Cuba?
Price Per Cigar: Free! ๐Ÿ˜€

The Pre-Smoke
The first thing I noticed when I held the cigar was that the wrapper felt like velvet. If I wasn’t about to smoke it, I’d want to sleep on it. That immediately altered my impression of its uneven suitcase-pressed appearance. This cigar was a stamp away from looking like road warrior luggage.

I gave it the squeeze test, and it felt pretty uneven too, with some noticeable soft spots. I immediately had concerns that I was in for a less than stellar burn. But I wasn’t about to let that stop me from lighting it up. The cut was nearly perfect, in spite of the inconsistent feel.

Before lit, it had a bit of a honey/farm smell; definitely different than others I’ve smoked.

The Burn
I was surprised, this cigar did not have significant burn issues. While it didn’t burn even all the time, it did correct itself as it smoked. I didn’t have to touch it up or relight it until the near end. And at that point I should have probably put it down, but I was determined to smoke this until I got blisters on my fingers. Besides, I there wasn’t much else to do on the drive home other than puff and listen to the radio.

The Flavor
Since I was driving the whole time, I didn’t take any notes. But this cigar was memorable enough that I didn’t have to. (And the details I don’t remember, I can always make up. Just kidding. ๐Ÿ™‚ ) It started out creamy with a very nice subdued pepper after taste. Very subtle, but I immediately loved it. As I proceeded through the first 3rd and into the second, it picked up a nice amount of cinnamon, almond and the occasional bit of vanilla. The pepperiness went away in the second third, but returned with a tasty amount of molasses in the final 3rd to finish of a delicious cigar.

The Price
I encourage you to buy any cigar at this price. Free cigars rule! (Unless it makes you sick, and then it’s just funny! Sorry Jerry, but I still laugh when I think about that review.)

The Verdict
I might have been a bit biased when I smoked it, thinking it was a Cuban. But whatever it was, I really, really enjoyed this cigar. I don’t know what it actually cost my friends to buy, but it was worth it. I made a point to thank them. I believe the phrase I used was “work of art”.

Quick Summary
Buy It Again: YES!
Recommend It: YES!

What Other People Are Saying
Unfortunately, there are not a lot of thorough reviews of this cigar online. At least not many that my Google prowess was able to harvest. I guess that isn’t too surprising with the U.S. embargo!

My Other Reviews

In Memory of My Favorite Cigar Cutter 2003 – 2007
You didn’t cost me a lot, and you didn’t always cut clean, but we had a lot of fun together. If you had to take a fatal spill, I’m glad you had a chance to share this cigar with me first.

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