Next Tattoo Preview

You know I can’t go more than a few months without a new tattoo, and it’s been two months since my last one thus the time is getting near again.

For this one I wanted something like a tabletop scene to “complete” what I just completed on my left arm. What would I normally be doing while writing? Probably smoking a cigar and sipping some wine right? Hence the concept for my next tattoo was born, which I pitched to Jade and she loved, so here’s what she came up with:

Appointment set for Saturday May 4th so stay tuned; as always my lovely followers are among the first who will see it!

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Review: UWELL Crown 4 Checkmate Kit

Today we’re reviewing a vape mod and tank – the UWELL Crown 4 Checkmate system. To say I was in dire need of an upgrade to my vape setup was an understatement so while in San Antonio visiting my beloved neuro-sister Laina I went ahead and bought a new setup recommended to me by the attendant on duty at the previously reviewed Valkyrie Vapor Shop.

So what’s included in the starter kit? Everything you need except for juice, batteries and a charger. The kit includes the mod itself, 5 mL Crown 4 tank pre-loaded with a 0.4 ohm kanthal dual vertical coil, spare gaskets, drip tip cover, optional 6 mL “bubble” glass and a 0.2 ohm kanthal dual vertical coil, 3′ Micro USB charging cable and user manual.

Concerning the mod itself, the power range is from 5-200 watts in power mode (limited by max voltage, obviously) and 200-600 degrees F (or 100-315 degrees C) in temperature control mode. The output voltage ranges from 0.7 to 8 volts and reads coils ranging in resistance from 0.1-3 ohms in power mode and 0.1-1 ohm in temperature control mode. While it is possible to use the unit as a passthrough (i.e. vape while charging), the manufacturer does not recommend this practice. I am unsure if this device has smart charging/overcharge protection (it is not listed in the manual) so until I hear otherwise I would not recommend overnight charging, etc. Of course, you can buy extra batteries and an external charger if you wish, but always remember batteries stay together as a set and never mix batteries.

The mod will accept two high-drain 18650 rechargeable batteries with a 3000 mAh capacity for a very high battery capacity. The battery cover is held on by a magnetic enclosure, as seen here:

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Charging with the Micro USB cable from a 5V/2A wall charger unit is fairly fast – approximately 2 hours from about 30% to a full charge. As with all rechargeable batteries it is not recommended to discharge them fully prior to recharging and also don’t overcharge. One other word to the wise – do not, and I repeat, DO NOT use an iPhone wall plug to charge the device. Those are only rated for 1 amp. Not only will charging take longer but you’ll over-stress the iPhone charger, leading it to get very hot and risk a fire.

So that’s all the technical stuff, now let’s discuss aesthetics. The fit and finish are top-notch. This system is available in a variety of colors to suit your own personal decor. The silver version was what the shop had in stock when I bought it, which is visually striking and high contrast:

57533070151__4b50d754-ac06-4a53-9666-3d6d0e62c9f7The filigree is visually interesting, clean and well-executed. The 5 mL glass has a streamlined appearance with the metal base and cap, which I prefer over the 6 mL glass which has the appearance of a “bubble.” I prefer the streamlined look of the 5 mL, though if you vape a lot it might be worth sacrificing some aesthetics for higher capacity (or, if you just like the look of the bubble glass; beauty is in the eye of the beholder after all). EDIT 4/8/19: Since I’ve found I need the extra capacity I’ve switched the glass out for the 6 mL bubble, sacrificing aesthetics slightly (to my eye):

The base of the unit is fitted with rubber “feet” as to not damage any delicate surface you might set it down on:

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As far as accessing the built-in functions of the system, it’s very simple. The unit is 5 clicks on/off of the power button within two seconds. The +/- buttons on the bottom can be used to adjust your wattage (power mode) or temperature (TC mode). The system has various protections built in, from overheat protection, short-circuit protection, low battery protection, reverse polarity protection and you can lock certain functions or all functions with the prescribed combination of button inputs as well as switch between power and TC mode. Also, the mod will cut off after 10 seconds of holding the fire button down.

The tank is a top-filling tank so you can get it really full as opposed to a bottom-filling tank. To fill the tank simply turn the cap 90 degrees counterclockwise, remove fill and replace. Replacing the coil is just as easy and is accomplished by removing the base and simply pulling the coil out and pressing a new one in. Of course, always remember to prime the wick prior to installation and even then let is soak for a few minutes prior to vaping. Whereas the tank has a delineated “minimum” line, I wouldn’t recommend taking it down this far. Always keep the juice at or above the top of the wick hole for maximum saturation to avoid dry hits.

Now, onto the part you’ve all been waiting for: actually using the device. The device has a nice heft and weight in the hand without being too heavy – it definitely feels solidly built.  The side-mounted fire button can easily be actuated and accessed no matter how you choose to hold the device. This is going to sound very Texan of me, but for me it feels most natural to hold the device as one would hold a handgun or pistol and fire the unit with my “trigger finger” (I told you that would sound Texan!).

The device easily produces thick, rich, flavorful clouds of vapor. I have only used the dual vertical coils personally (as I prefer kanthal coils for safety reasons), so I cannot comment on the mesh coils or any other temperature control coil. The manufacturer specs 60-70 watts for the 0.4 ohm coil using full airflow, however I found this to be too hot for my personal taste (note that temperature is subjective). I found I liked this coil at 50 watts instead, with fully open airflow:

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The 0.2 ohm vertical coil is speced for 70-80 watts, however again, I found that to be too hot for my taste. I settled on 60 watts for this coil as it yielded a cool, smooth vapor, again with a fully open airflow:

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I did get a bit more intense flavor and cloud from the 0.2 ohm coil, hence I’ll settle on it. Again, I’ve not tried the other coils for reasons mentioned above.

While it doesn’t do much to talk about battery life and coil lifespan as those vary so much from person to person depending on power setting, how much you vape, type of juice, etc. – for me I got a solid 2 days of vaping on a single charge and a coil lasts me about 10 days using an 80/20 VG/PG juice that’s actually pretty dark in color. I’m not a very heavy vaper though (maybe 1 tank/day) so use that to gauge what your own expectancy should be.

Maintenance and cleaning are very simple – just wipe down with a dry cloth every so often and dab up any excess juice in the drip tip with a paper towel. Due to the design of the tank and coil, this tank does not leak, which is a real plus especially for someone coming from bottom-fill tanks where the coil directly touches the heating element on the mod.

So, with all that, can I find any real drawbacks in the system? Maybe a couple of minor ones. First is what I assume to be the lack of overcharge protection (man it’d be nice to be able to charge overnight!). Second you can only adjust power, etc. in whole number increments. Usually this is precise enough, but some might like something in between there. Other than that I don’t know as though I can find fault with the system, unless I were to get really technical as some reviewers can.

And that’s about it! The bottom line this is an excellent mod and tank system either for someone just getting into sub-ohm vaping or an experienced vaper. I’m very well pleased with it and I think you will be too. Thanks to Josh at Valkyrie for recommending this system to me! I’d easily rate it a 4.75/5 – it vapes great and just plain looks cool.

Cigar Review: Pier 28 Habano

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This offering features an Ecuadorian Habano Rosado wrapper over a Nicaraguan binder and  Nicaraguan and Dominican long fillers. The size reviewed here is a 6″ x 46RG Corona Gorda vitola.

First light reveals a perfect draw and putting off ample medium/full body smoke. Flavors of a very dry hay/grass followed up by a bitter pepper and bright cedar on the retrohale (man I hope it gets better; not my preferred flavor profile!).

Settling into the first third we get many of the classic Rosado shade Habano flavors – unsweetened cream, leather and nuts still with a background tinge of the hay. The bitterness has worn off while the cedar and pepper remain.

We see a very welcome transition in the 2nd third as the hay wears off and a bright dried pineapple note joins the other flavors. The hay rears is ugly head again in the back so I ended it prematurely at 55 minutes which is still not a bad time for a small ring gauge. Subtle nicotine strength.

On the plus side, this cigar was well-constructed with a very straight burn. Short ash, but that’s to be expected with a small ring gauge. High quality self-adhesive band that was easy to remove.

If you like the above flavor profile this is definitely one to check out, but for me personally this one missed the mark. I imagine some would enjoy it though. If you like that sort of dry, vegetal flavor profile definitely check this one out though. Rating: 3/5.

I’ll Spread My Wings and I’ll Learn How to Fly…

In the final post of this series (and likely also the shortest), this refernce is another one you practically had to be living under a rock to miss the reference. Well, maybe not as blatantly as you would have had to with “Complicated” but maybe it’s obvious to me because this last one was almost our high school class song (it lost out to some stupid-ass country song called “Young” – I was disappointed).

So I’ve decided to embrace my quirks and so-called “flaws,” decided to un-complicate things and decided to live life I never have. So what do I have to in order to do that?

That’s an easy one: I need to spread my wings and learn how to fly. I need to do what it takes to touch the sky. I need to make a wish, take a chance, make a change and breakway from this prison that I call Crapilene. When I moved to DFWTF, I thought my heart was calling me back to Abilene and maybe it was in the interim, but that was just a safety net. I realize I was just falling victim to Stockholm syndrome, aggravated by the excessive misery heaped upon me by the toxic culture of “The Met” (and anyone who has lived there knows DFWTF will absolutely suck your soul).

With starting a new business comes a huge risk. Oh it’s a risk. I’ve done some scary shit in the past, but that’s probably the scariest thing anyone could ever do. Alas, with big risk also comes the potential for big reward. My business model will never make me rich, and I mean never. If I were to be honest with myself I’d be making considerably less money than I am now, even being in a city that’s all but ideal for my business concept (which SA is while Abilene is not in any way). A high end cigar & spirits bar is a labor of love all the way.

Alas, there is one thing I’ve come to realize: getting rich is life’s biggest booby prize. Living where I do (not actually in Abilene, but in a farming community just outside) I’m actually considered high income for my area even though I don’t bank. Alas I have next-to-no living expenses in my current arrangement. I’m living almost like someone who really makes half again what I make in my salaried 7-4 job. I used to think all I needed was money and I’d be happy (particularly when I went through a long stretch of unemployment), but now that I have some money in the bank and am still as miserable as ever, I realize how wrong that notion was. Of course, it’d be nice to be both happy and rich but I think every person on this fucking planet would pick happiness over riches if they were forced to pick between one or the other. You’d have to be a real idiot not to (or maybe a masochist).

Of course, the added benefit of being in SA would be to be close to my beloved neuro-sister. While it might be the icing on the cake, it’s a very, very thick layer of icing – maybe even thicker than the cake itself. Someone who I see as potential partner in this business endeavor (but who would also be the toughest one to convince to come with me) actually seems to sympathize and suggested we might be twin souls. Maybe that explains the pain I’m feeling as I write this – maybe it’s like a magnet that’s pulling on my body so hard that it’s creating pain beause my body can’t move with the pull.

Of course, that’s not to downplay saying goodbye to the ones here. Of course I love my parents, and while they would be sad to see me go, they’re even sadder that I feel so bad. I’ve not yet divulged to them why I feel this bad, but they know. They just know, and I’m sure they’d be 100% supportive of me when this comes to fruition. I’ll be back to visit of course. Abilene to SA is only about 250 miles after all, and after I’ve gotten this far in my tattoo journey almost exclusively as one artist’s canvas (and soon to be just one artist’s when I have her re-work the one done by someone else that healed like complete shit) so I’ll have to come back to add to my tattoo collection, unless she decides to break away herself and open a shop in SA that is. 😉

And yes, you read that right – it’s not “if,” it’s “when” – it’s in the stars – not only am I a tropical (false) Pisces I’m also a sidereal (true) Pisces and self-employment is in my DNA according to the true system and after exploring sidereal astrology with Laina I am a firm believer in it – hence my calling this whole thing a spiritual awakening. I’m not saying I make my every move based on it, but it’s amazingly and bizarrely accurate.

My purpose isn’t to sit in an office all day. My purpose is to do cool shit with cool people. While cranes are cool machines, the career/industry surrounding it is anything but. It’s just as soul-sucking as any other corporate job. Nah, I have to transcend. I have no choice. If I don’t, well then I might as well just commit suicide because by not I’ll be doing nothing but prolonging needless suffering and I absolutely refuse to subject the ones I love to the pain of losing a loved one to suicide. I just can’t do it. Why do you think I’m so glad my attempt four years ago failed, against all odds.

Breaking away is the final step in my personal transformation, which has been a process and now it’s entering its final stages. Of course, the process started on January 2nd, 2016 when that seemingly small blue mark was permanently etched into the dermis of my posterior inner right wrist reminding me that my story wasn’t over yet. Who knew something so small, so profound would have such life-changing consequences? What are the odds.

It’s not coincidence. It’s destiny.

Well, so much for being the shortest post of the series. It turned out to be the longest. Oops. I guess the words just flow sometimes. But that’s OK. I’ll say what needs to be said regardless of word count. Hope you enjoyed the song if anything else.

That concludes this series. I know I’ll have my haters, but you need not comment. I have no time for that. If you dare to hate on any of these posts by the time this one goes up (note: the series were pre-written on the same day and set to post in succeeding days) you will be automatically blacklisted. I don’t need anyone raining on my parade. You’re either with me or you’re not and if you’re not fuck off and unfollow me. Thank you.

Cigar Review: Mr. Brownstone

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This offering from Esteban Cabrerras features a Connecticut Broadleaf Maduro wrapper over Ecuadorian Habano binder and Nicaraguan long fillers. The size reviewed here is a 6″ x 52RG Toro vitola.

First light reveals a slightly snug draw but producing ample smoke. Medium bodied flavors of a light earth, maple syrup and oak with a peppery/spicy finish.

Getting into the first third the body seems to waver between medium and medium/full. We see the same great flavor profile as the first light but with an added dimension of a milk chocolate toward the start of the draw and the sweetness coming up a tick. The smoke has a thick, chewy quality on the palate and is very smooth. The flavors are well blended with no one flavor dominating.

Getting into the 2nd third we see a subtle shift as the earthiness takes on more of a very distinct leather note as it takes on a rich creaminess. Everything else remains and the draw opens up to even what I would consider slightly loose by this point. The final third doesn’t see any additional changes and keeps the flavor profile consistent, with the exception of the body now being solidly into the medium/full category. Ending at 1 hour and 15 minutes for a solid burn time for a Toro vitola and entering only a subtle nictone strength.

Excellent construction with a near razor-sharp burn, but the paper band was a real pain to get off – I had to grab it under the foot to tear it off (sacrificing a tiny flake of wrapper leaf). Ash holds on about an inch at a time.

This was a solid offering all around. It would have been a 4.5/5 if not for that stupid paper wrapping (which adds nothing to the cigar and is pure marketing BS), but the issues therein cost the cigar a half point in my final ratings so it came out to 4/5. It is a highly recommended cigar that would go great any time of day and whatever you want to pair it with.

Photos and Reflections from the Inaugural IndyCar Classic at Circuit of the Americas

Racing season is in full swing with both the NASCAR National Series (Trucks, Xfinity & Cup) and the NTT IndyCar Series so you know that makes me a happy camper. It actually gives me something to look forward to on weekends. Alas, for the first time since they opened in 2014, Circuit of the Americas in Austin, TX finally hit the IndyCar schedule, and I was chomping at the bit to go.

I was already planning on visiting a good friend the week around the race (the amazing Laina of Who Loves Kitty and The Silent Wave) to check on the two cats my family had placed with her family about this time last year and to do a little show-and-tell with my Linux Mint machine, but when I found out IndyCar was racing at COTA I knew we had to add that to one of our adventures during my time there. After some arm-twisting (interpretation: hardly any) I convinced her to tag along for the race.

After getting some necessities at the dreaded WalMart and a little gas station, we found our parking spots and walked seemingly all over the track trying to find our perfect vantage point (being a 3.5 mile road course, seeing the entire track is impossible but you can see key areas in certain spots). Once we found the right spot, we settled into our lawn chairs and proceeded to talk IndyCar and a lot of the jargon used in the series (which she picked up on really quickly – something that did not surprise me in the least).

During pre-race I walked her through the whole process, pace laps, pit strategies, tire compounds among other things, but before we knew it the field was given the one to green signal, and that’s where the fun started. When the green flag dropped we were both like kids at Christmastime (I’ve attended oval races myself but never a road course race).

Laina amused me with her seeming excitement watching the cars go by and just taking in all the action – the passes, the lone wreck and just the race in general. She also entertained me with her amusing nicknames she assigned to the cars based on the livery they were sporting – “Flash Bang,” “Hello Kitty,” “Road Cone,” Blu-Ray” among other amusing names that were oddly fitting, except for one – though Will Power (#12 Penske Chevy) led 45/60 laps, he retired early with a clutch and engine failure. So much for being “The Immortal” huh? Oh well, as bad as we both felt for him, it was exciting to see Colton Herta become the youngest driver to ever win an IndyCar event – he was six days shy of being 19 years old at the time of the race.

Of course we had done some things right and some things wrong. Looking at the course map I thought I had the ideal seating spot, which I quickly found out was not the case because of the elevation change blocking the critical portion of the track (the home straightaway). OK, fine, the best place is actually between the start/finish line and turn 1 where you can see about half the track. The downside? I had gotten Lot F parking which was on the other side by our original planned set up location. Note for next time: opt for Lot T parking as it’s right there.

Of course, the time at the race couldn’t be complete without a few photo ops so we of course threw those in.

A coupld of selfies (the best we could do because Selfie Sticks are not allowed in COTA, the bastards:

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Of course, the individual images where we were just being our weird selves. She downplayed hers somewhat:

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but I being who I am just had to ham it up and pretend to be glamorous and strike a pose with the background and of course show off my racing tats and you know I’ll never turn down an opportunity to model my ever (in)famous “Davy” Dukes:

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Then they had a little prop where you could put the T in COTA – something rather amusing that neither of us could turn down an op at:

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Oh, and just a little video of the action from our vantage point for good measure:

Luckily traffic getting out wasn’t too bad; following GPS and using a TollTag (they’ve really got their shit figured out at this place – plenty of surrounding roads to funel traffic in and out). Alas, needless to say we were starving upon departure so we found a quick bite to eat on the way back to San Antonio. One way or another, I was relieved that Laina enjoyed herself and we both agree we need to make this a yearly excursion – attendance was great so hopefully COTA will become a permanent fixture on the NTT IndyCar Series schedule.

Alas, now it’s time for some rest and on to the next adventure this weekend! I’m on vacation all week this week so what the fuck ever right? I’m going to forget about work and just enjoy some much-needed time off (especially after the fiasco that was this week). Just rest and general fun this week, the I get to do it all over again in Fort Worth next weekend with the spring NASCAR weekend at Texas Motor Speedway!

Cigar Review: Sindustry Black Works Studio SE2019 Lancero

This offering from Black Label Trading company features a Mexican San Andreas wrapper over Nicaraguan Habano binder and Nicaraguan long fillers in a 7″ x 38RG Lancero format.

Slightly snug draw but producing ample smoke. Medium/full body. Lots of flavors out of the gate. Toffee, cinnamon, black pepper. A touch of raisin. A heavy oak lingering on the finish. Lots of nasal burn on the retrohale.

Getting into the first third is more of the same. Draw opens up to normal at this point. No one flavor stands out – they are blended perfectly. Very complex but there’s a slight grit to the texture.

We see a significant transition in the 2nd third as the oakiness morphs more toward a smoky, meaty quality. The pepper also takes on more of a cayenne note. It’s very substantial and the finish lingers forever. The raisin notes also morph into a distinct yeasty bread. It’s almost like a totally different cigar now.

The last third was very zesty, spicy and slightly acidic. There’s also a metallic quality. Very interesting to say the least. Ending at 55 minutes for a reasonable burn time for a Lancero and entering a medium nicotine strength.

Absolutely flawless construction with a near razor sharp burn all the way down. Ash drops off quickly but that’s to be expected with a Lancero.

This was quite a complex stick. Very spicy too. Too bad Lanceros burn fast because I’d have loved more. This is a Privada Cigar Club exclusive so if you want in on this be sure to sign up! Rating: 4.75/5.

Side note: this is my 600th post. Kind of hard to believe.