St. Patrick’s Day and More

So yes, it’s March 17th; St. Patrick’s Day. Means great fun for me usually as a piper, but unfortunately nobody contacted me and requested a piper for their venue so that was a bust. Boo-hiss, right?

Oh well, that ain’t going to stop me from enjoying today. I’m still going to indulge in the typical affair of corned beef and cabbage as well as some good Irish Stout beer (sorry, green beer is gross!). Oh, and since it has a green band, today I’m smoking a Blanco/CigarObsession 2nd Third in Robusto (5″ x 52) – a delicious Cameroon blend featuring a good draw with plentiful medium bodied smoke output with the typical Cameroon flavors of sweet creamy leather, zingy cedar and hints of unsalted peanut and a tiny bit of a metallic twang. All in all, I have to say it’s shaping up to be a fun day.

This day is also kind of special in a way because on top of the holiday today is the last day of my 20s. Yep, today I am 29 years, 364 days old. Tomorrow I will be ringing in another decade of life as I turn the big three-zero. What’s planned for tomorrow? Well I’m sure you know the answer to that: a new tattoo! Stay tuned, you won’t want to miss this one!

With that, I’m out. Happy St. Patrick’s day to all of you and your friends and families. Enjoy, stay safe and please don’t drink and drive.

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Beer/Cigar Review Wednesday 3/15/17 – What’s Worse for You?

Beware the ides of March and welcome to beer/cigar review Wednesday. Unfortunately I still have nothing really new to review, so for today we’re just going to take a look at another aspect of a couple of my favorite things: namely the health effects.

Let me be perfectly clear here: I know alcohol and cigars aren’t the healthiest things for you. Whereas the former has some heart health benefits in moderation, there’s practically nothing good for you about cigars. I know this. That said, the way I see it is everything is a tradeoff.

I am what most would consider a fairly heavy drinker (my normal is about 3-4 standard drinks/day given I prefer higher ABV beers and higher proof Scotch) an a light to moderate cigar smoker (no more than 1-2 cigars/day). I am not dependent on either alcohol nor nicotine and can and have laid off of them if the situation required me to do so.

For me, my love of beer, Scotch and cigars is more about the flavors, the relaxation and the overall experience. I have my alcoholic beverages of choice and my cigars for that reason only. Sure, the psychoactive effects of the alcohol and nicotine are part of the experience and rounds out the package but that isn’t my primary purpose.

Even so, I realize that I am taking somewhat of a risk here, but it is a very calculated risk. I’m very well aware that I am increasing my risk of certain cancers (oral, stomach, etc.) as well as my risk of cirrhosis and such. I also know that alcoholic beverages are high in calories (something I am mindful of and adjust for in my daily food intake). That said, when you step back and think of it, which is worse for you? Alcohol and cigars or stress? I think even most doctors would agree that stress is many times worse for your health. Stroking out, heart attacks, high blood pressure and even mental illness can come about due to excessive level of stress.

Hence, a calculated risk. My daily drink(s) and cigar(s) go a long way to reducing my stress levels and though I drink more than the recommended daily amount of alcohol I don’t go absolutely crazy and I don’t smoke enough cigars for it to have that substantial of an effect on my health (actually even the FDA has admitted 1-2 cigars per day has a negligible effect on health) so I’ll gladly take my chances with my vices.

So yes, enjoy your alcoholic beverages of choice and cigars/pipes in moderation, savor the experience and reap the overall net health benefits of reduced stress.

With that, time to go pour a dram and light up. Cheers, everyone!

More on Cure vs. No Cure

OK, I think I’ve had a sufficient break from this topic (after the barrage of hate mail I received over it) that I’m ready to attempt to address it again, but before I do let me forewarn you: if you cross the line I will blacklist your sorry ass and revoke your commenting privileges, do I make myself clear? Alright, back to the topic at hand.

So I’ve seen a number of people recently likening autism spectrum disorder to sexual orientation (a term some use is “neurological orientation”). First off, I’ll make it completely clear that I absolutely do not buy into the concept of neurological orientation. Equating sexual orientation to a neurological disorder or mental illness makes absolutely no sense to me. It’s a false equivalency.

Now, what I might consider a more accurate comparison (and I’ll entertain this concept even though I’m not 100% convinced of it) is comparing it to gender identity. Now, that might be a semantics game but hear me out here: gender dysphoria is currently treatable by hormone therapy and reassignment surgery. That is, it is possible to transition to have the physical appearance that properly aligns with one’s true identity (and if someone starts talking stupid bullshit in the comments dismissing that concept I will also blacklist your sorry ass so don’t go there).

So, how does this relate to the cure? Well, not all transgender people actually undergo the medical side of things and have reassignment surgery, nor are they really forced to by the medical establishment. I’d like to think of a cure for autism (and other deviant so-called “neurotypes”) in the same way; an option on the table for individuals who desire to become normal for whatever reason but otherwise would leave those who somehow or for whatever reason enjoy being neurological deviants alone (though I openly admit I don’t understand how anyone could enjoy being that way). I’ve always said I’m a complete Libertarian – I’m not about forcing anything on anyone. You live your life how you want, it affects me absolutely nil.

So I guess what I’m saying is that it is possible to take an equitable and fair approach to  the cure issue and not leave anyone dangling out in the wind. A lack of a cure leaves me still dangling out in the wind wishing I was normal (for professional and personal reasons) whereas a forced cure would leave those who, for whatever reason, are content with the way they are dangling out in the wind. The simple existence of a cure (should one come available) is of no threat to your existence. That’s not what you should be fighting. What you should be fighting for would be the fair application of such.

Of course, I think deep down that’s what you’re fighting for anyway, even though you incorrectly assume it must mean throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

Early Birthday Present!!!

I’m one week away from completing my 30th trip around the sun. Sometimes (well, truth be told most of the time) I think that’s 30 years too long but as I’m finally starting to snap out of the rut I’ve been in most of my life and starting to enjoy things a bit more, even if my job might be less-than-satisfying (I keep reminding myself it’s only temporary after all).

Anyway, while the talented Jade draws up my next tattoo (which will be my on-my-birthday present to myself – you’ll be among the first to see my new ink right after it happens) I received my early birthday present in the mail yesterday and I’m like a kid at Christmastime.

My favorite cigar reviewer (Bryan Glynn over at CigarObsession – definitely check out his website and YouTube channel) in conjunction with Blanco Cigars released a line of CO branded cigars. I just knew they were going to be great because I like the same kinds of flavor profiles Mr. Glynn enjoys so I definitely trust his judgment in that if he likes something chances are I will also. I got lucky enough to be able to try the pre-release blends in each original vitola and they were all absolutely delicious. My old tasting notes on each:

1st Third (6″ x 52RG Box-Pressed Toro): Primarily peppery/spicy with an earthy and dark chocolate undertone. Med/full body flavors, mild/medium nicotine intensity. Kind of a classic maduro in that way but smoother than most maduros. Goes great with a stout beer. 1.25 hour smoke time.

2nd Third (5″ x 52RG Robusto): Slightly sweet aromatic cedar with a touch of creamy leather. Slightly dry/cottonmouth on the palate but still very smooth. Medium body flavors, mild nicotine intensity. Goes great with morning coffee. One hour burn time.

Final Third (6″ x 54RG Box-Pressed Toro): Dessert flavors for miles. A complex blend of sweet caramel, chocolate, cream and a light roast coffee. Slight pepper kick on the retrohale. Thick, dense smoke. Near full body flavors, medium nicotine intensity. A great after-dinner cigar or to have with a smooth, mellow Scotch (as to not overpower the cigar). Like a candy bar without the calories. Nice long 1.5 hour burn time. Slightly pricy but worth every penny (and a real bargain when compared to similar cigars that can retail at 2-3x the price!!!). One of my all-time favorite cigars.

So yeah, all great cigars. Well, last week they rolled out the full production cigars and not only in the vitolas above but each one also gets three brand new vitolas! The 1st Third adds a 5″ x 52RG Robusto, 6″ x 54RG Solomon and a 7″ x 38RG Lancero to the original Toro size, all in box press. The 2nd Third adds a 6″ x 52RG Toro, a 7″ x 48RG Churchill and a 6.125″ x 52RG Perfecto, all non-box press. The Final Third (ohhh baby!!!) adds a 5″ x 54RG Robusto, a 6.5″ x 54RG Torpedo and a 7″ x 38RG Lancero, all in box press. I’m really interested to taste the differences between the vitolas in each blend (normally different vitolas will have different subtleties, and especially true of very small and very large ring gauges). I want to just smoke them all right now but I’m being good and letting them acclimate in my tupperdor (basically a tupperware container with a Boveda 69% humidity pack – works just as well as a wooden humidor but much more cost effective and no requirement for seasoning or anything) for a couple of weeks before firing one of them up. It’s so tempting though!!!!

Man, don’t those all just look totally delicious? Left to right: 1st Third Lancero, Toro, Salomon and Robusto; 2nd Third Churchill, Robusto, Toro and Perfecto; Final Third Robusto, Toro, Torpedo and Lancero. I don’t know which one I’m going to try first??? Of course, I’ve already had the three original sizes but oh boy, here we go!!! You can bet I’ll be doing my own reviews as I smoke them.

Of course, if you want to try them you can get some for yourself over at the Blanco Cigars website (US only or for dropbox shipping) or at Atlantic Cigar (worldwide shipping).

Happy early 30th birthday to me!

Yes, You Can Hug Me…

…and no, you don’t have to ask. For that matter you can put your arm around me, hold my hand, cuddle me and kiss me too, regardless of your biological sex, sexual orientation or gender identity!

Perhaps I’m a rarity among certain sub-classifications of the human population that I belong to by happenstance (cisgender male and autism spectrum) in that I absolutely love and thrive on physical touch. I mean I love it. I’d even say I thrive on it. To me it’s comforting and reassuring and not necessarily a romantic thing. I have no problem being someone’s “cuddle buddy” or whatever, even if that person is just a casual friend.

I know, it’s really unusual that I’m that affectionate given the two sub-classifications mentioned above. Granted, I know it’s impossible to pigeonhole people but it’s just the way I am. Now, I will say I don’t just go up to random strangers and give hugs. I do respect people’s personal space in that way but I will never turn away physical affection initiated by another person, even if that other person is a complete stranger to me.

I really can’t explain why I’m this way. I’d say it’s likely an autism thing but I know a vast majority of those on the autism spectrum are the total opposite in that they hate physical touch and it makes them uncomfortable. I’d also like to say it’s due to my sexual orientation (bi) but I know of several LGBTQ+ people who are very hands-off also. It also obviously has nothing to do with my nationality as the US is a no-touch sort of culture (as opposed to some European and Latin American countries where hugging and cheek kissing are just normal greetings).

I’ve often considered when the weather is nice (neither too hot nor cold) going out to a downtown street corner with a “FREE HUGS” sign and seeing how many people actually take me up on it. It would be just that too; just anyone, whoever it is who came up to me would get a nice, tight hug from me with no catch, cost or questions asked. I actually kind of have a bad reputation in my town anyway for the guest columns I write for the local paper; perhaps seeing that I’m just human like them would bridge the gap a bit.

I don’t know. Maybe I am totally weird. I’m just me though and I don’t feel as though I should have to make excuses for it or apologize for it.

Beer/Cigar Wednesday 3/8/17 – How To

Sorry, I have nothing to review this week. The weather has been so fucked up and I’ve not had a lunch break at work in the last two weeks because things are so nuts so no smoke breaks at work. That said, I’m going to give you something to think about nonetheless: how to enjoy my two favorite vices.

With that, on how to enjoy beer, I hand you over to Jim Koch, founder and CEO of Boston Beer Company/Samuel Adams:

Obviously it’s not rocket science but there are some basic guidelines. Now, with cigar smoking, it’s a little more complicated. I could explain it but my favorite cigar reviewer does it better than I ever could so I’ll just let him do it. He describes this all as opinion but it’s actually pretty much spot on.

As a sidenote, here’s another video on how to retrohale (pass smoke through the nose). This is absolutely essential to enjoying the full flavor and aroma of cigars and even if you are a semi-experienced smoker doing this will unlock a whole new world for you.

Anyway, perhaps that’ll unlock a new world for you. Also of note are the new CO branded cigars blended by David Blanco above. I’ve got me a sampler pack ordered and you’ll be seeing those reviews soon!

Song Lyric Sunday 3/5/17 – Auld Lang Syne

So, respect. Such a broad topic for our weekly Song Lyric Sunday prompt. Well, of course, the obvious choice would be a certain song everyone knows so that would be a total cop-out. So I decided to take this in a direction that’s a nod to my part-Scottish heritage and my background as a piper (yes, I really DO play the bagpipe; no bullshit!).

Anyway, naturally with my partial Scottish background and as a piper I’m naturally a fan of the poetry and songs of Robert Burns. This particular poem-turned-song is mostly associated with New Year’s Day but it’s much more than that; it’s a nod of respect and goodwill to our fellow human beings, friends, family and comrades. It was written by Burns in 1788 who borrowed elements from a similarly titled poem “Old Long Syne” written by James Watson in 1711 and added to them and wrote them in a more authentic Scottish dialect.

Of course, there are countless versions of the song out there but my favorite is probably Dougie MacLean’s  version as it’s about as close to the original dialect as it comes. This particular video shows both the original Gaelic-influenced lyrics as well as a modern English translation so there’s no need for me to transcribe the lyrics here.

As a side note, while “old long since” is probably the most literal translation of the title, it could be more loosely translated to “for old time’s sake” or a similar sentiment.

Anyway, I hope this was somewhat educational for everyone too. It seems a lot don’t know the historical roots of this song even though it’s a familiar New Year’s ballad and I think it fits the challenge (even if in an unconventional way).