Hot And New: Brian’s Cigar Review Index

Antoni Gaudi’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! 🙂

*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!


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! 🙂 )

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 🙂 ), 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! 😀 )

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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Making Good On My Pledge, Thanks Everyone!

Fight Diabetes with Team Hanselman!

Thank you to everyone that donated to Team Hanselman during the blog matching challenge! I don’t have the final word yet, but it sounds like it was a great success! I got word this morning that the donations had indeed cross the $1000 mark. (Just before you called James! 😈 )

Anyway, I’ve made good on my pledge:

My Donation to ADA

If you haven’t donated yet, there is still time. The actual walk takes place on October 20th, 2007, and I’m pretty sure you can make donations right up unit that date. I will leave the donation banner in my side bar until then for your convenience.

Thanks again for your help!

Turkey And Google Language Tools: Feewing Wucky?

I’m happy to say that I’ve been blogged about, and partially translated, in another language for the first time! How cool is that? Well, actually, I’m not sure how cool it is. I can’t read Turkish. Theoretically, the entire post could be a great string of creative and exotic euphemisms describing how much my blog is silly rubbish and I’m a smelly monkey. Depending on how creative it was, it actually might be even better than an impartial or complementary post.

As a guy with a decent ability to scour the internet to find the information I need, I decided to take my language problem online. Immediately AltaVista’s BabelFish implementation came to mind. I’ve used it the past when I’m trying to decipher the finer points of technical pointers and problem resolutions I find from time to time on German and French language newsgroups. (Having had a small amount of training on both languages, I always try to figure out what’s being said first, before using the cheat-o-matic BabelFish.) No dice. Babel fish does not translate from, or to, Turkish.

The same holds true for another player in the translation market, WorldLingo. The offer quite a few different translations, but up to a limit of 150 words. (*cough* LAME! *cough*, *cough*) Since other online translators don’t have this limitation, I don’t see myself using them all that much in the future. But I would have used them this time, had they translated Turkish text.

And then there were odd sites like Learning Practical Turkish, that didn’t so much offer translation services, as much as erotic Turkish texts, Turkish idioms and a dictionary of “Off Color” Turkish words and phrases. Since my search for knowledge was reaching a dead end, it might as well be funny. 🙂

Speaking of funny, somewhere along the way, I came across a link to Google Languages Tools. Google does everything else under the sun, why not translations? And while they do seem to have a pretty comprehensive list of translations (including those not involving English as either a “from” or a “to”), I was again out of luck when it came to Turkish. So why did this page come up in my search? Well, because Google offers it’s interface in Turkish:

Turkish Google

Pretty cool, huh? But wait it gets cooler. And funnier. Here’s a few of my favorite “translated” Google interfaces:

Bork Bork Bork (The Muppet’s Swedish Chef)

Google Bork Bork Bork

Elmer Fudd

Elmer Fudd Google

And a few more…

OK, so what have I learned? Not all that much, really. Significant language and cultural barriers still exist in some areas. And I’ve found an area where all online translators can make improvements in their offerings: translate Turkish! Do it for me, so I can feel the love (or disdain) of my fellow bloggers in Turkey!

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Today’s The Day To Magnify Your Charitable Gift!

Fight Diabetes with Team Hanselman!If you’ve been waiting to make a charitable donation to the American Diabetes Association until it can do the most good, your wait is over. Starting today at noon PST (3 PM EST, 7 PM GMT) the donations you make through Team Hanselman will be matched by 7 blogs! Help us make our $50,000 goal!

The Links:

Thank you for your help!
Fight Diabetes with Team Hanselman!

You Can Help Defeat Diabetes, More Than You Realize

Fight Diabetes with Team Hanselman!A good friend and former colleague of mine is trying to raise $50,000 for the American Diabetes Association to help cure diabetes. It’s a lofty goal, and he’s got a way to go. I want to help and I’d like to ask you for your help also.

If you’ve visited my blog recently, you’ve seen the little fight-diabetes image in the side bar. If you’ve considered giving some money to help fight diabetes through “Team Hanselman” but haven’t yet, you have a golden opportunity.

If you make a donation during the this weeks Blog “Donation Matching” Challenge announced on Scott Hanselman’s blog your donation will be matched by 7 different blogs/bloggers. I am one of those bloggers, and the list may still be growing! That’s right, even if you can only give $10, your money does $80 worth of good starting Weds, May 9th at Noon PST until Friday, May 11 at Noon PST. And of course, your donation will be tax deductible. 100% of all donations will go to the American Diabetes Association.

I am putting my money where my mouth is. (And given the size of my mouth it’s gonna be costly 😉 ) I will be personally matching up to at least $1000 of the contributions made during the challenge. I hope you will let me match your donation! Help me give the whole $1000!

Here’s what you need to know to donate:

You can also click any of the banner images in this post to get more information and make your donation. If you lose track of this post, you can also use the image in the side bar. Thank you for your help!

Fight Diabetes with Team Hanselman!

A Moment Of Embarrassment, Captured For Posterity

Moments ago my wife called me to come out of “the Manastery”™ (the home office/game room/cigar bar), and as is the norm, my answer was “just a minute.” I was right in the middle of reading a post. I told her I’d be out just as soon as I finished.

And then I realized it. I was reading my own blog. At some point, I had switched from reading random posts through WordPress’s Tag Surfer, and had started reading my own posts. 😳

You know what? My blog isn’t half bad, if I do say so myself. If I hadn’t ruined the experience by coming out of whatever delirium had seized me, I probably would have really enjoyed my last post. Seriously though, I’ve had a number of complements (not all from people I’ve bribed) and at least one criticism posted on another blog. If you’ve written something good enough for somebody to complain about, you’ve achieved a certain level of success. So I’ve made it to two milestones in the past couple of days. The blogs first complaint, and the first 1000 hits. I couldn’t be happier. 😀

The Most Pointless Posts Ever

Why God, why do people make these posts?It kinda thought I would enjoy blogging. But what surprised me even more is that I really, genuinely enjoy reading other peoples blogs. Even (especially?) when the topics they discuss that have nothing to do with anything on my blog. A perfect example: I read a post from a retired Florida police officer about seat belts, and loved every second of it. That’s what blogging should be all about: People sharing the interesting things that they know with people interested in knowing about it.

But for every good seat belt article, I see a lot of posts that make me want ask why did you bother to post this? Here’s my list of posts I love to hate:

The I-Blog-Because… Post
Sure, it’s a good idea to know why you do the things you do. But instead of telling us why you’re doing it, do it first. And you know what, we’ll get it. We’ll figure out why you do it.

In protest, I will never write, or even think about why I blog. It’ll be a complete mystery to everyone. And won’t you be sorry.

The I-Couldn’t-Think-Of-Anything-To-Say Post
Being honest is great. But, if you don’t have anything to say, don’t say anything! Your readers will be happy to wait until you do have something to say. Most your dedicated readers probably use feed readers anyway, so they’ll know just as soon as you do find something to say.

Besides, with the millions of posts out there, and the volume of information linked to by and digg, there’s almost no excuse for not having anything to say. Put a little effort into searching, and you’ll find your lolcat… er… muse.

Any Post Tagged “Blogging” That Doesn’t Provide Useful Blogging News or Ideas
Some people seem to tag every post they write with “Blogging.” No kidding, you’re blogging. And you’re also cluttering up my tag filters with stories about your dramatic teenage roller coaster relationship and your lolcats. (Though it is hard not to enjoy a good lolcat. Check out my favorite.)

Also, it bears mention that the advice to “blog for yourself“, does not qualify as a useful blogging pointer. It’s a cliche and a blog-killer. If you “blog for yourself” you will always have one reader. (Note, I did not say “at least one”, I said “one”. And by “one” I mean you.) Instead, consider blogging for your readers. Write your post, re-read it and ask yourself the following questions:

  • Why would anybody want to read this?
  • What could I add (or subtract) that would make somebody want to read it again, and maybe email it to a friend?

The Apology-For-Not-Blogging Post
(See The I-Couldn’t-Think-Of-Anything-To-Say Post) The only way for this post to be saved is to convert it into a brief comment at the beginning of a real post, perhaps one discussing what happened or one with travel photos.

Now some quick Q&A inspired by this post…

Just who the heck do you think you are “Brian’s Random Thoughts” to make fun of my lolcats?
That’s easy. I’m a schizophrenic month-old blog that had 149 hits yesterday. Count ’em: 149. Best day ever, and this blog is feeling cocky.

Why would anybody want to read/re-read this?
That’s easy, for the monkey picture. 🙂

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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. – $15,510,736.50
  2. – $11,645,895.66
  3. – $10,410,117.60
  4. – $10,068,006.36
  5. – $7,941,384.18
  6. – $7,989,370.08
  7. – $7,344,100.86
  8. – $6,736,091.28
  9. – $6,627,699.60
  10. – $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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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. 🙂 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.  But I get it now.  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.  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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