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.EDIT 4/24/19: UWell has assured me this device does have overcharge protection. 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.

Review: Valkyrie Vapor Shop (San Antonio, TX)

Very rarely is a place I visit on vacation so epically awesome that it deserves its own review, but I feel this place is because it might very well be the best vape shop I’ve ever been to.

So Laina was running low on her vape juice and we had nothing better to do so we decided to venture over to the shop she gets her juice and equipment from. I was game; I’ve been vaping on and off over the years too (it’s the next best thing to my premium cigars after all!). She got some juice and we just chilled and chatted for awhile while Josh (the person on duty) mixed up her juice and went from there.

I figured I hadn’t gotten juice in awhile so I figured I’d get some. Josh was very personable and helpful (and just plain fun to BS with!), immediately recommending a flavor upon learning what flavors I like in vape juice (chocolate and mint flavors) – their “Polar Express” flavor which is supposed to be like a York peppermint patty. I tried one pull of the sample tank and I was sold – it was absolutely delicious. I had him mix up two bottles for me to take on the road on the spot, opting for a 1mg nicotine concentration in their standard blend of 80/20 VG/PG:

Yes, you read that right – 1mg. Here’s what sets them apart from everywhere else I’ve been – their nicotine strengths can be had in increments of 1mg/mL. Standard is increments of 3 and that’s just too much in my opinion. Many people might in fact be in between levels ideally but have to either settle for a step higher or lower depending on the user’s wants/needs (or mix two levels together). This is not ideal. It’s best to get the right level right off of the bat. As someone who never smoked cigarettes but does enjoy a little bit of the brain boost from the nicotine (note that cigars don’t really have much nicotine at all), 1mg/mL is perfect for me. I’ve tried 3mg in the past but it’s always been too much for me, so I’ve been stuck with 0mg (boo!).

So that’s all fine and good, but how is the flavor and vapor production (after all that’s what ultimately matters right)? The VG-heavy blend has just enough PG to carry the flavor but not too much to make the hit harsh. Even taking big direct lung inhales from a high-powered sub-ohm mod the vapor goes down smooth and cool without irritation or sting. Of course, as with all mainly VG juices, this stuff produces thick, rich clouds of vapor. The nicotine used is high quality and (at least at the lower concentration) had no effect on the flavor from the taster. Some lower-quality nicotine sources can impart a very peppery flavor to the juice and totally ruin the taste.

Josh was also helpful in aiding me in choosing a new mod as mine prior was older than shit and I was in need of an upgrade. After some exploration, I settled on the UWell Crown IV Checkmate system (again, review to come soon):

Anyway, if you’re in the San Antonio or surrounding area, definitely hit these guys up for your vape needs. Josh was awesome and Laina assures me Mike (the owner) is equally awesome. The juice is very high quality as are the mods, tanks, etc. they stock (they have a very rigorous quality control standard they put their stuff through before they stock it – another commitment to quality). Even though I’m not local to San Antonio (yet!), I will continue to get juice from them with the help of Laina. 😉

Anyway, this place is enthusiastically recommended. You just won’t go wrong when you get your juice and supplies from them.

(Aside): Just A Hipster Boy Living in a Redneck World…

…I took my stick shift car going anywhere.

Seriously. Space meggings, manual transmission and a fancy ass vape mod (because I can’t smoke my cigars at the track so I reach for the next best thing). Total hipster I know it, maybe with some Bohemian thrown in.

Anyway, off to the O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 Monster Energy Cup Series race on this rare frigid Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway. See you all soon!

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.

What Am I Gonna Do? What Am I Gonna Do To Feel Like Freedom’s Mine?

This third installment in a series of four posts might have a little more crypitc lyric reference title so I might as well just tell you where it comes from. Those of you who follow Indie Rock might know of a guy named Dustin Burnett, who goes by the stage name Zayde Wolf. The title is the first pre-chorus in his brilliant song “Live Life” and don’t worry, if you haven’t ever heard it (a lot of my followers have because I’ve featured it on SLS twice when that was still a thing), I of course will share the video at the end of this post.

So where did I first encounter this song? It was in 2016 on Season 23 of Dancing with the Stars when NTT (then Verizon) IndyCar Series driver James Hinchcliffe (#5 SPM Honda) did a foxtrot routine to this song with his professional partner Sharna Burgess  on premiere night. It was a truly fitting song for him too – the year prior he had an accident that would have killed any of the rest of us but he was in such great shape he survived an accident no random Joe Blow would have survied.

Alas, sometimes it does take something tragic to realize how much we take this life for granted. We also don’t realize with our everyday mundane boring jobs just how quickly our lives are passing us by, and we don’t realize how much of our precious time we are just absolutely wasting bending over backwards for people who couldn’t give two ducking ducks (ahem, I mean fucking fucks – damn you Autocorrect!) about us (here’s looking at our bosses) and wouldn’t shed a tear if we suddenly dropped dead. Don’t lie to yourself – you know they couldn’t give a shit about you as a person. All they care about is what you do to line their pocket books while paying you a disproportionately small salary in exchange for the amount of revenue you’re bringing in.

Alas, that’s what corporatism/crony capitalism in the US has boiled us all down to. Again, we’re being forced to sacrifice our own happiness and utility to fit the mold. It’s painful for all people, neurotypical or otherwise, but even more painful for us neurodivergents because these environments are completely and totally toxic to our well-being. That masking I talked about yesterday? Yeah, we HAVE to do it to retain our jobs most of the time, and if we don’t it’s a case of see ya later. Well that certainly explains our much-higher-than-average unemployment rate right?

At the end of the day, very few, if any, of us are truly made to sit in offices all day. We were made to do cool shit with cool people. So what are we gonna do, what are we gonna do to feel like freedom is ours? Well, it’s time to break the mold and live life like we never have and live life through the good and bad! Not only do we need to be ourselves and quit masking, there’s no better time than now to take that chance, do something that the spiritually dead would call crazy (I use the term as this almost feels like a spiritual awakening).

Is it really crazy though? I don’t think so. They say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing twice and expecting different results. Maybe those of us who get out there and live life like we never have aren’t the crazy ones. Maybe we’re the sane ones after all. Again, down with society’s arbitrary social norms and expectations. Their bullshit expectations are why so many people are on fucking antidepressants and shit these days (I truly believe this – again thanks to corporatism/crony capitalism).

Alas, I think I know what I have to do now, and that will be the topic of the fourth and final post in this series to come tomorrow. As for today, I’ll leave you with this bold and powerful song. Hope you enjoy.