RTDA And The Sancho Panza Extra Fuerte Pamplona Review

Sancho Panza Extra Fuerte PamplonaI’ll admit it, I’m a little hesitant to write a new post. I’m really enjoying the huge volume of traffic I’m getting for the Oliva Serie V giveaway post, and anything new I post will likely get in the way of that. Oh well, it is a blog after all, and readers stop being readers if there’s nothing new to read!

Well, there is something new to read! It’s my second guest cigar review over on Stinkie’s CigarBeat. This time, I’ve taken on the Sancho Panza Extra Fuerte Pamplona, the most full-bodied of the Sancho Panza line. And I’ve done a much better job of photographing the cigar in action, so it’s almost like a video review. If you print it out, you could make a flip-book of the pictures and basically have a video. It really is the post that keeps on giving. (And check out the ashtray, it was a gift from my wife!) OK, you get the point. Head over to CigarBeat and see what you think of what I think of it!

Those of you who read this blog for randomness on topics other than cigars, have no fear. The substantial increase in smoky cigar posts has a lot to do with this weekend’s RTDA in Houston. After this weekend, my posts will go back to their previous levels of nicotine and carcinogens. Though you should expect a full report on RTDA. πŸ™‚

For those of you who don’t know what RTDA (Retail Tobacco Dealers of America’s trade show) is and are curious, it’s basically the cigar world’s Super Bowl/World Series/championship-game-of-your-chosen-sport. The only difference is that instead of featuring in teams of guys in great physical shape accomplishing difficult tasks with round objects, it’s dominated by heavyset guys in Guayaberas accomplishing difficult tasks with aged tobacco leaves. And fans smoking those completed tasks. So, pretty close, but clearly better. Hey, you can’t smoke a touchdown or a home run, but you can smoke an Oliva Serie V or a CAO America! I rest my case.

One more note before I end this meta-post. (I know, I hate these posts too, but I’m smokin’, codin’ and reviewin’ my glutes off right now.) I will be at RTDA in Houson. There have been rumors, shifty glances and whispered conversations in the cigar forums. It’s getting out of hand, frankly. I just want to make this clear so everybody can get back to work. πŸ™‚ If you’ll be in town, and want to join me for a drink and a cigar, drop me a line! Or just look for me at Slainte Irish Pub in downtown Houston!

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Oliva Serie V Review And Other Cigar News

Oliva Serie VYou may have noticed that it’s been a while since I’ve written a cigar review. Well the good news is that Brian hasn’t given up smoking cigars. (If anything, I’m smoking more in rebellion, given the latest rash of legislative assaults on our liberties.) The reason you haven’t seen a review for a while is because Brian’s been working on a guest review for Stinkie over at the CigarBeat blog. And by working, I mean smoking and taking taking names. Well, taking notes. πŸ˜‰

Anyway, I’m happy to announce that my finest review to date is now available for your viewing pleasure. I’d like to thank Stinkie for both the cigars (there was no way I was gonna get these guys this early without some help!) and for the opportunity to contribute to his great blog. (Cue the clapping… now.)

I’ll be contributing a few more in the coming weeks to help free Stinkie up while he’s moving. And that’s a good thing for at least one reason. Space limitations. This blog, while free (WordPress rules!) is limited in terms of space, so I have to be sparing when it comes to pictures and such. I don’t have quite the same restrictions on CigarBeat posts. Which means my Oliva Serie V review is flush with pictures of the cigars, both before and during the smoking. (Lemme link to that one more time, just in case you haven’t gone yet… πŸ˜‰ )

Don’t worry, this doesn’t spell the end this blog or even of cigar reviews on this blog. In fact, I think I may even squeeze one in here between posts there.

In other news, Brian is going to RTDA! This past week was a magic week, let me tell you. I was asked to guest review on two different blogs, CigarBeat and another I’m still working the details out on. I’ll give you a clue, childbirth is involved. That could fall through, but hey, it’s great to be asked. I was also made an offer I don’t think I can refuse, professionally. And finally, some very kind soul (I’m not sure if I can name names, so I won’t) has secured me a pass to the 2007 RTDA trade show in Houston, Texas. All that in a week.

If you’re going to be there, drop me a line! It’ll be fun to put faces to names while enjoying the new CAO America!

Now in less pleasant news, the anti-smoking nuts have had their way with Ohio, leaving it a pale, pansy shadow of it’s former self by refusing to allow consenting adults to congregate in a properly-designated public area and enjoy cigars. Welcome to No-hio (via Cigar Jack), a place where the state knows what’s best for you and will bend you to its will. With laws and police power. Yep, that means you can’t smoke in a cigar bar. Yep, a place created and staffed by people dedicated to the art of the tobacco leaf. “Nope,” sez No-hio, “that isn’t good for you. I won’t allow it. I must protect you from yourselves.”

I don’t know about the residents of No-hio, but this just makes me crazy. Crazy enough to drive up there and engage in a little civil disobedience. Who’s with me? Anybody want to get together and light up the biggest, fattest, smokiest stogie we can get our hands on right inside the door of the state capitol building? Bonus points if we set off the sprinkler system! *Sigh* Yeah, the problem is that we have jobs to be at and mortgages to pay. And that’s why these weasels get away with this sort of crap. We need some rent-a-protestors to do this for us. πŸ™‚

People who have read this blog for a while now know I avoid generally avoid politics in this blog. It tends to bring the worst out in people. (The previous paragraph is evidence of that.) That isn’t going to change, however, I leave a little wiggle room in there to express my right to smoke cigars with other consenting adults in appropriate locations. A cigar bar is an appropriate location. The outdoors is an appropriate location. My car and my home is an appropriate location. Legislators, keep your laws out of my lungs, off my body and out of my home. And how about backing away from my cigar bar?

Don’t even get me started on the $10 per cigar tax that’s being up for consideration in the Senate. You know what you need to do. (I’ll give you a clue, it involves correspondence.)

OK, I definitely shouldn’t drink and blog. Fortunately, that isn’t illegal. Yet.

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6 Mushroom Pictures: There Actually Is Fungus Among Us!

Just look what I found in a neighborhood in Sandy Springs, GA this weekend while my wife and I were making the rounds: Mushrooms! Not the normal pizza-topping variety, we’re talking full-on Grateful Dead album art mushrooms. (Or better yet, Mellow Mushroom pizza art for those of you living in the area.) Anyway, this just proves I should never go anywhere without my camera. You probably shouldn’t either. πŸ™‚ Enjoy!

A Mushroom!

A Mushroom!

A Mushroom!

A Mushroom!

A Mushroom!

A Mushroom!

Check out the entire mushroom gallery here. (The originals are much larger.)

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Dubai Palm Shaped Resort Islands Now On Google Maps

The Palm JumeirahPerhaps you remember reading about the fantastically expensive resorts the United Arab Emirates. You know the ones that were being built on manufactured islands reclaimed from the ocean shaped like palm trees? Well, if you don’t, here’s a couple of articles (ABC and USA Today) to bring you up to speed.

But because your time is valuable, and here at Brian’s Random Thoughts we’re all about giving you the most for your money (I’ll assume the check is in the mail), here’s the executive summary:

  • 100 mansions on each palm frond.
  • Estimated capacity: 120,000 residents.
  • Nothing going for under a cool million bucks.
  • Built on land reclaimed from the sea.
  • 32 hotels. (Including Trump International hotel.)
  • A water park.
  • A mono rail.

But there’s two things you probably don’t realize. The first is that there are two three of these reclaimed, palm shaped islands! Two! Three! I don’t know about you, but just one of these guys blew my mind. Hey, it’s good to know our gasoline dollars are being put to good use. (And I’m gonna need a place to stay once I’m fantastically rich.) πŸ˜‰

And to prove it, I need to bring up the second point: Two of these crazy cool resort islands are now on Google Maps! (That’s where I got the picture for this post. Doncha just love Google?)

Here’s some quick links to the resort islands:

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The Third, The Fourth And The Simpsons Road Trip Crew

Antoni Gaudi’s Sun MosaicWell I hope you have your bottle of Madeira wine ready! Why, you ask? Ah, I see you have forgotten. No problem, your humble blog-esponent is here to keep you on track. As I mentioned in a previous doozy of a boozy post, Madeira wine, due largely to it’s incredibly long lifespan was, the beverage the founding fathers of the United States used to toast the signing of the Declaration of Independence. (I just knew I should have held off on that post until July!) Friends, allies, and anybody who is indifferent but wishes us no harm (I’m thinking about you Switzerland), feel free to join in. πŸ™‚

So happy 4th of July, and happy birthday America! Cheers! πŸ˜€ I hope you all will join me in reflecting on the freedoms we have that we take for granted. (And for cigar smokers, some irritable grumbling regarding our eroding freedom to enjoy a fine stogie.)

So I don’t have a long an interesting post to share today. I just thought it would be terribly negligent for me not to post something. Even in spite of the previous evening excesses. The highlights:

  • A Rocky Patel Vintage 1990 Toro – After smoking so many 1992’s, I was surprised at the flavor. Very different than the 1992. Initially, I think I like the ’92 better flavor-wise, but I have quite a few more to try before I decide. I will say that I’m disappointed by it’s burn. Very uneven in both my and my friend’s cigar. And mine just didn’t want to stay lit. It could have be the conditions, so again, I’ll wait to pass judgment on it until I have a few more.
  • Port, Muscat, and Argentinean Malbec Wine – The port was your average resturaunt fare, nothing special. The Malbec was enjoyable, but it was the Muscat that really impressed me. I’ve never tried it before, and I really enjoyed it. Like port, it’s a dessert wine, but was a noticeably different flavor. But I’ll be damned if I can remember what that was. Yep, it was that good of a night. πŸ˜‰
  • A Sancho Panza Double Maduro Quixote – I picked this one up because it came recommended as a good value purchase by one of the guys from The Stogie Review on last week’s Dog Watch Social Club show (download it here). It smoked like a dream. Though it didn’t strike me as particularly complex, I really enjoyed it, especially after the naughty Rocky Patel. I’ll have to pick up some more.
  • A Don Benigno Petite Robusto – According to one of the guys in the local tobacco shop, it was the best cigar in their humidor. I’m not sure that I agree with that, but I did find it interesting. My initial thoughts was that it was kind of like smoking movie popcorn. It was creamy, and I got a noticeably salty flavor from it. Very unusual, fortunately I have another to try to see my palate was blown by all the port and scotch. πŸ™‚ (Note: The one I smoked was the size of the petite robusto, but had the band of the Perla. No such cigar is shown on the website.)
  • 30-year old Ardbeg – A very smooth, but peaty single malt scotch, provided by an extremely generous friend. I’ll consider it payment for my cigar consultation in the humidor earlier in the day. πŸ˜‰

And now, on a completely unrelated note, kudos to Emon for alerting us to the Simpson’s Avatar maker! I started screwing around with it, and before you know it, I’d made the avatars for the entire roadtrip crew! And here it is, for your viewing pleasure. Now run out and make your own. Hurry, don’t miss the fireworks!

The RoadTrip Crew
From left to right: “Monkey Poo” Harris, Brian and Brian’s hot, exotic wife.

Your Chance To Tell Brian Where To Go!

So I’m planning a road trip. But not just any road trip. This is gonna be a multi-day, 2,600+, cigar-smokin’, sight-seeing, exotic-beer drinking extravaganza! You read that right, 2,600 miles or more! Just how far will that take Brian? Well, the plan is to drive from Portland, Oregon to Atlanta, Georgia and hit a bunch of interesting sights along the way. And you know that no road trip is complete without a good crew. The current roster consists of my wife (who thinks this might be a waste of time and money), my good friend, and recent cigarillo aficionado “Monkey Poo” Harris (MPH for short) and myself.

Road Trip 2007

Anyway, the reason for the vague number of miles is that we haven’t yet figured out exactly where we’re going to stop along the way. The simple door to door trip is 2,596 miles. Of course, detours rack up mileage quickly. (Memo to myself, use trip odometer to figure out just how far we go.)

I’ve compiled a list of things I’d like to see, but I have a feeling that I’m forgetting some stuff. As these things go, once you’ve gone on a trip, somebody invariably asks you if you stopped at some amazing, can’t-miss attraction you either forgot about or didn’t know about in the first place. In an attempt to prevent as much of that as possible, I’m looking to you, dear reader, to give me some suggestions. So this is the chance you’ve been waiting for, tell Brian where to go! (Keeping in mind that my car is not fitted with a drill bit.) πŸ˜‰

Oh yeah, I guess you might find it handy to know a bit about the destinations we’re already considering for this trip. You’re in luck, there is a list. A very, very optimistic list. We’ve got a week (and change) to do this thing, so there’s quite a few places that won’t make the cut due to time constraints. But it’s good to have a list. Lists are fun.

High Priority Sights
A combinations of places I haven’t been, and a few off-the-wall places that should make for some good pictures and funny stories.

Booze or Cigar Related
Yeah, this list is pretty small still. I think we’re going to wing it once we’re on the road. I’m sure there’ll be a ton of interesting pubs and cigar shops we’ll bump into on the way. Feel free to recommend one!

Lower Priority
Places I’ve either been to, or places far enough out of the way we just may not have the time to see.

A thought occurred to me the other night as I was compiling this list. Wouldn’t it be fun (and possibly cost effective) to have sponsors for a trip like this? As long as we’re going to be sipping bourbon, swilling ale and herfing across the U.S. why not make it a dual purpose trip? I could see us having the names of respected coffee, cigar and alcohol establishments (or websites) prominently displayed in the windows, or temporarily affixed to the doors of my car. I know we probably couldn’t give away alcohol, but we probably could hand out some cigars, kinda like honorary cigar reps. I’d be fun, but I have no idea who you’d talk to about something like that. If you happen to be somebody who knows something about that sort of thing, feel free to let me know. πŸ™‚

Want to sponsor our roadtrip? Here are some ideas:

  • Send us some shirts, we can either wear them or give them out along the way.
  • Send us a bunch of cigars. We’ll smoke some of them and hand out the rest.
  • Send us some cash for gas and accommodation.

Anybody who does, will have name, brand and/or website displayed prominently on Brian’s chariot for at least a week! Is this a great idea or what? πŸ™‚

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Straight From The GodCast: The 10 Commandments Of The Road

Heed the sage words of Brian!As you’ve probably already heard, week or so ago the Vatican issued a new 10 commandments for drivers. Now I’m no Catholic, but I was intrigued that something as fundamental as the Ten Commandments needed an amendment. Or a sun porch. Or whatever you call an addition to an ancient holy document.

So I read the new commandments, and my first impression is that, well it’s not really anything new. Maybe a reshuffle of the commandment deck, and some carefully worded common sense thrown in to make it hip. Hmm, sez I, not exactly something momentous enough to merit entry on the eternal blog of the heavens. Something’s gotta be up here. So I decided to check it out myself.

(On a long, parenthetical side note, it’s interesting how priorities change in a few thousand years. Killing has really shot up the chart in modern times, jumping from virtual obscurity in the second stone tablet at #6 to the head of the God’s top ten driving list at #1. I guess you could say that killing is the Elvis Presley of the world of traffic sin. Back in the day it was, “Killing? Hmm, yeah, not good, but not quite as bad as those damn false idols and golden cows. And you gotta respect your folks, that’s pretty important too. We’ll fit in killing right after that.” Now the golden cow is nowhere to be found on list. And I guess you’re allowed to be a total ass to your folks too.)

Anyway, back to figuring out what’s up here. Now I’m not one to wear a large hat or resplendent robes, and I’m not very interested in hearing people confess their sins, but I’d say that I’m just as good as the next guy when it comes to picking up the GodCast, when I want to. (Better still when I’m off my meds and hopped up on caffeine.) I guess that has something to do with my Protestant background. And as everybody knows God speaks in King JamesEnglish, which was terribly fortunate for the old King and his people, not so lucky for everyone else. Fortunately for you, dear reader, your friend Brian is fluent in several archaic forms of English (Shakespeare, Bible, some Chaucer, etc.). So here, as heard on the GodCast, are the actual new 10 commandments of the road. Direct from God’s streaming MP3 audio to your eyes, minus the politically correct fiddling and platitudes, served up with a steaming side of my plain English interpretation. Enjoy, and behave!

I. Thou shalt not run the red light, nor shall thou hesitate to drive when mine light is the color of honey.

This one is pretty straight forward and should make sense to anyone. If the light is yellow, get your butt through it. If it’s red, stop, it’s not your turn anymore.

II. Thou shalt not change lanes in an intersection.

This one should also make sense to everyone. I can’t imagine there’s a driver’s manual or written test out there that doesn’t explicitly spell out that you need to stay in your damn lane when you go through an intersection.

III. Thou shalt not change lanes lest thou first use thy turn signal.

I can’t express how much not using a turn signal pisses me off (especially when you just cut me off) without swearing for 5 minutes and breaking something. And since I kind of like the things on my desk, I’ll not get into it. What I can say in a civil tone is that this commandment is so easy to follow. It’s so easy and requires so very little effort, that even the fattest American tourists at Disney World can do it without getting winded. (Sweating may occur, that’s hard to predict.) And yet, for some reason I see this commandment broken daily in my adopted home of Atlanta. Every single day. By people in the prime of health.

IV. Thou shalt not change lanes and use thine brakes immediately upon entry into thy brother’s lane.

This is a classic prick move and a very deadly sin. Clearly there wasn’t enough room for you to change lanes, buddy. If you did this and didn’t your turn signal, not only will you burn in eternal hellfire, you’ll be violated in the most unpleasant ways possible by Saddam Hussein. (He needs company since Satan left him.) Oh and it gets better. You know it’s been hot down there, and you know he hasn’t been wearing deodorant. Think about it.

V. Thou shalt not tailgate.

Unless you’re parked at a ballgame with a cooler full of beer and a blazing hibachi, you better not be tailgating. If you keep it up, sooner or later you will eat steering wheel and go directly to hades. And there, you’ll be tailgated by Saddam’s wild and crazy sons, if you know what I mean.

VI. Thou shalt not leave the space of a chariot between thee and the brother thou followest.

I don’t know what the hell the deal is people who come to a stop a full car length (or more) behind the car ahead of them. I’ve been trying to puzzle that out for a while, and what’s clear is that whatever the motivation for this hoggish behavior, it’s pure evil. Especially when this wicked craft is practiced in a very short turn lane. As punishment, you’ll get to rest on the fiery racks of hades, where you’ll be elongated to the size of the extra car lengths you took up in the turning lane.

VII. Thou shalt not drive at or under the speed limit in the lane of thy heavenly father. For yea, have I provided thee and thine ailing chariot a lane to thy right.

Nobody likes to be stuck driving 53 MPH in the fast lane on the highway behind someone oblivious to the traffic building up behind them. Especially when there is an open lane to the right. Not only is it ridiculous, it causes accidents as people take evasive action not to pulverize the low-speed nincompoop. It becomes a cardinal sin when combined with a proud self-righteousness that you are driving the speed limit and everybody else in the entire world should slow down. Listen buddy, kudos for following the exact letter of a pointless law. Jesus may love that about you, but we kinda think he’d still agree that you’re an asshole. Move over or face an eternity on the highway in hell being force-fed bran muffins and turkish coffee while stuck behind a demonic codger driving 25.

VIII. Thou shalt not pass in the lane of the poor and destitute (the slow lane). To do so is truly wicked and is hateful in mine eye.

Unless you’re stuck behind a breaker of the 7th commandment, passing on the right is unacceptable. There’s a reason why they call the left lane the passing lane. I cannot count the times I’ve nearly been killed by some jackass who passes on the right side because he thinks radar detectors won’t catch him driving 90 if he does it in the slow lane. My life is usually at risk because I’m trying to adhering to the 7th commandment by move over to let the ass-clown pass. (I do this even when I’m in the middle lane, ‘cuz I’m a damn saint. πŸ˜‰ )

IX. Thou shalt not assume that thine time is of more value than that of thy road brother.

This commandment covers tremendous ground, and intentionally requires you, as a driver, to pull your head out of your ass and realize everybody else around you also has important places to be and things to do. Sorry, no special consideration because you drive a nice car. Prick moves covered by this commandment include driving up to the front of a line for an on ramp and forcing your way in, as well as, failing to yield right of way because you hate to bring your convertible to a full stop. Feel free to apply this commandment in any situation you find useful in your driving life.

X. Thou shalt not trouble thy brother with thine driving mistakes, nor wallow like the filthy boar in the mistakes of thy brother.

Talk about saving the best for last. This commandment covers scenarios like the asshole that decides he needs to make a left turn even though he’s in the right lane. And this realization comes only inches before the intersection. Instead of driving on and finding a way to turn around and correct his navigational error, he stops, put on his turn signal, and holds up a whole lane of traffic! (Hey, at least the inconsiderate bastard used the turn signal.) It all boils down to consideration of others. Yeah, you messed up, and yes it will take longer to get where you’re going, but deal with it. The people behind you didn’t mess up, and you have no right to waste their time. The deepest and hottest circle of traffic hell is reserved for you if you do. And you’ll be eternally stuck behind a 90-year old codger driving 15 MPH with his turn signal on for all eternity.

But wait, this commandment is a double header. It also covers the sin of rubbernecking. That’s right, from on-high, the big man is saying, “move along, there’s nothing to see here.” And there isn’t. If you want to see crazy car-related carnage, rent a movie. While you’re on the road your main task is to keep from causing crazy car carnage. Follow the commandments of the road!

Smite-ning Clause (Disclaimer)
Brian is neither a prophet nor a deity. Worshiping him, while likely to be fun and oddly fulfilling, will not result in your getting into heaven. (In fact, it may keep you out.) Brian simply does not have that kind of clout with the man upstairs, nor the size of the hat to intimidate anyone into believing he does. (Brian worship may one day get you into a cigar bar, though, even it does wind up putting you on the express train to a very warm climate.)

Brian has added this “Smite-ning” clause to this post in the hope that it will prevent his next cigar from being lit with heavenly lightning. (Though should that happen, it will fulfill his prediction that he’ll go out with in an explosion of color and sound.) As it so happens, there is a lot of lightning this evening. A lot. And Brian lives in a tall building and works next to a window. This could be his last post ever.

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If I Ran The Pub

Beer Means More Here“But if I chose the brew,”
Said Brian, beer guru,
“I’d make a few changes
That’s what I’d do…”

Though my reputation for alcohol consumption in certain circles has reached mythic levels reserved for naked, bearded Greek guys living on Mount Olympus, I have yet to actually discuss the matter of booze in any thorough manner. Well, I can’t allow this over sight to continue.

Imagine if you will, a parallel universe. In this alternate universe, I’m the new owner and operator of a Irish pub. And in this parallel dimension (which is heavily influenced by American television sitcoms) I’m magically able live a trendy lifestyle with comical problems that are generally resolved with in the hour.

Anyway, I have an important decision to make in my alternate universe. What beer will I put on tap? I’m not subject to weird protectionist booze inter-state/country import policies or odd restrictive laws that harsh real-life buzzes. Nor am I slowed down by limited productions of the rarer or seasonal beverages. Of course, as a resource, I can rely on the parallel real me, who drinks far more than he should, doesn’t resolve his problems nicely in an hour and faces the often unfortunate consequences of his misguided actions.

Between the two of us, we’ve come up with the following list, sorted by beer style for your reading pleasure.

India Pale Ale (IPA)
Bridgeport IPA – This hoppy award winner is a staple beer in Portland, Oregon. Recently it’s gotten a wider distribution. Seek this one out, it’s worth it. Or have your parallel self stop by my pub. My uncle from Virgina fell in love with it in one evening. He promised to never leave it, but he did have a plane to catch. The beer’s heart was broken. I think your love is all it needs to mend.

Sweetwater 420 – According to the website, this is a “West Coast Style Pale Ale” which is probably why its been my beer of choice the whole time I’ve lived in Hotlanta. It’s hoppy, it’s got a clean finish and it’s got an arbitrary number for a name. And it’s tasty. That’s all I need to tap the keg.

Amber / Red
Golden Valley Brewery Red Thistle Ale – This beer balances mysteriously between an Amber and an IPA, and is absolutely fantastic. In the real world, you better head to Oregon to find this gem. Even then, your only sure bet is heading to the sleepy little college town of McMinnville in the Oregon wine country.

Flying Dog Old Scratch Ale – I don’t know why, but I simply can’t put into words how much I like this beer. Nor can I understand why this is the single hardest Flying Dog brew to find. Fortunately, in my parallel universe pub, this guy is made exclusively for my pub. And its the most popular beer in the world. So business is good. (For research purposes only, I cracked one of these guys open. If a lightly hoppy, cinnamony malty beer sounds good to you, go pick up a cold six. If it doesn’t what’s wrong with you? Is the peer pressure not coming through strongly enough?)

New Belgium Fat Tire Amber Ale – This beer is sweeping the nation in real life. (I might hold that against it, if it weren’t such a great beer.) However due to the aforementioned weird voodoo booze-import policies, nearly every state in the union has this gem, except my adopted home of Georgia. This tasty “toated malt” flavored concoction of hops and yeast poop is so popular, it even appears in wikipedia. Resistance is futile, but the implants are so small, and the procedure nearly painless, you might as well get it over with.

Blonde / Hefeweizen
Caffrey’s (Official dead website) – This is the obscure Irish cousin of Boddingtons, that gets the same respect as the Irish did in the U.S. in the 19th century. The awesome thing about this beer, aside from the flavor, is the honey-colored Guinness-style cascade. In the real world, Coors owns the rights to U.S. distribution of this beer, and elects to sit on its giant corporate thumb instead of blessing us with this nectar. (If you want to see it in the U.S. again, give Coors a call at 1-800-642-6116).

Hoegaarden – With a double ‘a’ like that, you know its gotta be Belgian. It was over this cloudy, golden liquid heaven I seduced my then girlfriend with my wit, charm and fluid capacity. In the real world, this nectar is widely available in the bottle, and every now and then, on tap.

Leffe Blonde – Though I don’t get to enjoy this brew often, it merits a tap because it holds a special place in my heart. A place that probably was originally responsible for important blood circulation. In any event, this beer is responsible for my lack of memory of several Friday night chicken vindaloo trips I made to Brick Lane while I was working in London. It was also an unpleasant Saturday morning companion on the train to Edinburgh and Paris.

Stout / Brown / Porter
Guinness, Murphy’s Irish Stout and Beamish – This should come as no surprise to anybody. You have an Irish pub, you need an Irish beer. Especially for St. Patties. And I’m not going to discriminate, we’re boasting the full Irish stout trinity.

Bridgeport Porter – Not only do I love this beer for it’s caramelly-chocolaty goodness, we (meaning the beer and I) teamed up to corrupt my friend “I Don’t Like Beer” Dana. It’s a hard beer not to love. And for some reason porters are not a very easy beer to find. They’re so hard to find that you won’t even find a mention of it on the Bridgeport website!

Peroni – I first tried this in Italian train station. The kind of place that featured guys with pencil-thin facial hair and immaculately pressed pastel Armani outfits. So a typical Italian train station. I was as dry as a prune and happy to sample a local beverage. This one surprised me. For a light beer it was crisp and delicious. And the good news for those of you firmly stuck in reality, it’s probably available in your area.

Tiger Beer – This is on the list because I want a beer from southeast Asia. And I’ve had to many rough experiences with Singha. (Mark, if you’re reading this, you know what I’m talkin’ about!) This beer won by heart by virtue of being free during happy hour in the executive lounge in the JW Marriott in K.L. And the ads they ran before movies in Malaysia were so ridiculously funny.

Fruity/Odd Ball
McMenamins Ruby – This beer, like the McMenamins pub chain is a pacific northwest cult favorite. The ruby is basically a raspberry hefeweizen. But its hard to focus on the beer when surrounded by the surreal, quirky hotels, schools and theaters they serve it in. Though my parallel universe pub is Irish, it would definitely steal a page from the McMenamins design handbook.

21st Amendment Watermelon Wheat – This beer was a hit with my wife, my friend Cowan, and his wife also at the 2006 Oregon Brewers Festival. I thought it wasn’t bad either. What can I say, I’m a man of the people. I want my parallel universe customers to be happy, and this beer was out faster than any other beer at the brewfest. Wanna drink one in real life? Head to San Francisco. Hold on there! Quit the humming and drop the flowers, we’re talking about beer.

JalapeΓ±o Chili Beer – This was a seasonal beer put out by a California brewery for the 1996 Oregon Brewers Festival. To my knowledge this beer has been lost to time (and the internet) in the real world. (I’ve seen some evidence that it might have been a product of the late Russell Schehrer, head brewer of Wynkoop Brewing Company…) But, in my parallel-universe, Irish pub paradise, I can resurrect this beer and serve it. Because everyone should have the opportunity to taste a beer that tastes like hot nacho cheese with jalapeΓ±os. Even when it’s cold. Kind of like the jelly bean that tastes like buttered popcorn. Only this guy will get you drunk, and as a bonus, will wreak havoc on your digestive system. 😈 Hey, I never said my pub had to be practical. And just try to tell me that that wouldn’t be bottled awesomeness.

So whaddaya think? Up for a trip to McBrian’s? (Maybe I should all it O’Brian’s?) Feel free to recommend a beverage to add to the list, the parallel reality Brian has no trouble with distributors! πŸ™‚

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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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In Defense Of The Murse, Or Manliness And The Messenger Bag

Indiana Jones and His BagI, apparently, have a murse. A manbag. A man purse. I was informed of this recently by a couple of friends who took great joy in the announcement and my surprise. The exchange went a bit like this:

Friend 1: “Hey, nice murse.”

Me: “What?”

Friend 2: “Dude, you have a man purse. A murse.”

Me: “What are you talking about? This is a messenger bag.”

Friends 1 & 2: Uncontrollable laughter.

Friend 1: Murse. Laughter.

Friend 2: Manbag More laughter.

Before you start to feel sorry for me, you should know that I beat them both to death with my messenger bag while laughing in a deep, manly fashion. OK, not quite. I gave them cigars, and my masculinity was fully reinstated. It also helped that I pointed out to them that Indiana Jones, the single greatest man in myth or reality, carried one on all of his adventures. In fact, it saved his life several times, generally by snagging something and keeping him from falling to an almost certain, crocodile-chewed death. The Indiana Jones argument was a silver bullet. The subject was forgotten.

My History with the Murse

I’ve been carrying around some kind of man bag for years now. Sometimes in the form of a laptop bag (by definition, it qualifies), but often in the form of a messenger bag, and usually on the weekends when I’m running around. I wasn’t thinking about Indiana Jones laying the priceless head of an ancient Inca treasure in his bag when I bought my first weekend messenger bag. (Though the image has come to mind since.) I was in Malaysia, and all the young, hip Asian guys hanging around Bukit Bintang in Kuala Lumpur’s “golden triangle” had one dangling behind them. And I thought, “well isn’t that handy?” I usually had a book and an MP3 player to lug around, and my pockets weren’t the best at keeping these things off the ground. A good messenger bag would do the trick. So I bought a cheap blue one with strong latches.

Fast forward 5 years to Christmas 2006 in New York City. My old lateral messenger bag is on its last leg. And somehow, messenger bags are still fashionable. (I don’t pretend to know how that works.) Only now the style is smaller and vertical. My wife is in a perfume/jewelry/who-cares shop and next door is a Tumi store. I walk in and 15 minutes later walk out with the murse in question. A true, rugged, canvas-looking, Indiana Jones messenger bag. One that roughly resembles the one in the picture above, except taller than wide.

Separating the Dr. Jones bag from the Murse

A messenger bag is tool, a murse is an accessory. It’s just as simple as that. When I selected my messenger bag, I made no attempt to coordinate the bag’s color or fabric with my coat, shoes, car or any else I own. The only consideration I gave to color was to avoid anything bright, trendy or eye catching. That’s because this bag is meant to hold things like cigars, cigar accessories, a book or a newspaper, and a small pad of paper and a pen. Stuff that comes in handy when you’re hunting treasure and running from angry indigenous peoples.

How do I know the difference between a murse and man’s messenger bag? Well, because I own what could only be consider a murse. Its a slick two-toned, hand-made, Italian leather briefcase, I bought in the Florence’s outdoor market years ago. The thing is beautiful, but the only time I’ve ever carried it was through the airport on the way home from Italy. I figure I’ll probably actually use it once I finally become a Wall Street stock broker in the 1980’s. (Unfortunately these things just don’t work in the common-sense, unpretentious, slacker-chic world of I.T. consulting.) Unlike my weekend bag, this briefcase was all about aesthetics. It would be absolutely impossible to carry unless you’re wearing an expensive suit. (Which is another slight problem, since I don’t own one.) So for now, it’s closet candy. Manbag closet candy.

So the next time you see a guy carrying a bag, here’s your guide to determine whether he’s metrosexual or a bull-whip slinging treasure hunter:

  • Is the bag ugly, weathered or worn?
  • Is the guy unshaven or kinda grizzled?
  • Is he smoking or chewing on a cigar?
  • Is he running from dogs or a group of angry indigenous people?
  • Did he just shoot a guy showing off with a pair of scimitars?

If the answer 2 or more of these questions is yes, you’ve got a man’s man sporting a messenger bag. It could be me. If you answered yes to all of these, you’re watching an Indiana Jones movie.

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