Thoughts on the Moore, Oklahoma beheading…

So, I’ve thought long and hard about my “Champ and Chump of the Week” thing.  Thought better of it.  Thought further about it not really fitting my personna as well, nor what I wanted published on the blog.  I’m very opinionated, and have my thoughts on just about everything – qualified or not!  But, it’s just perhaps some stuff I don’t want to publish here – figure that I can do without the negativity, and instead can just focus on other thoughts when and where something comes up that fits my other categories and themes on here.

With that in mind…

How crazy was your workplace this past week? Not as crazy as at Vaughan Foods I bet:

My hat off to Mark Vaughan in this incident.  Whatever the suspect’s motivations were, Mr. Vaughan, being a reserve sheriff’s deputy, off-duty and at his main workplace as the company’s Chief Operating Officer, was called to action and “put some in him” to stop Alton Nolen’s attack.  Friggen awesome.

As is currently being reported but is still under investigation by the FBI as well, the suspect had apparent extremist Islamic ties, and was trying to convert workplace employees in an aggressive nature recently, part of which apparently led to his firing on the day of the attacks.  Whether it was these supposed extremist / fundamental ties and/or beliefs, or his anger over the firing that day, he then left the main / HR building, drove across the street, and walked into the main processing building and attacked and severed the head of the first employee that he saw, and then attacked another before Mark Vaughan fired his weapon at him to stop the attack before another beheading could take place.  We’ll find out in due course (as he’s recovering in hospital from his injuries, so he’ll likely be interviewed / interrogated soon) what caused him actually to do this, whether it was the extremist religion things or just an angry act due to losing his job.

Of course, the unfortunate debates from all sides of the political spectrum and viewpoints will begin to rage anew in the U.S. and other countries.  Pro-gun groups will applaud the off-duty reserve deputy for having and using his weapon to stop the attack.  Hell, the local police praised him for doing so, saying the attack could and would have been much much worse. (I wholeheartedly agree with this, based on the information that’s out there right now.)  Others on the far-right will also say, “too bad he didn’t kill the terrorist dead”, wanting an eye for an eye.  On the other side, people will ask for more security.  Saying this is different, as he was an off-duty reserve cop, and not a crazy civilian carrying-concealed at work.  Also, whether this has a direct link to the recent ISIS beheadings, and much scarier, perhaps to the recent ISIS video demand for supporters in western countries to attack and behead people (specifically police and military personnel – so I’m on the docket twice I guess!), we’ll have to wait and see what the FBI investigation reveals.

But for the now, good on Mr. Vaughan.  Seeing and/or hearing what Alton Nolen had just done to the first victim in stabbing and then beheading her, and then with him attacking another woman, Mr. Vaughan fired two or three rounds (reporting varies, but looks to be three shots), and put two rounds on target, stopping Nolen’s heinous and violent attack.  Local reports are saying that Vaughan wasn’t actually armed at the time of attack, but that he retrieved an assault rifle and vest from his vehicle (as a tactical team member), and then returned back into the building to stop Nolen.

The online debates are already raging.  I’m not gonna link anything further here – Google it and look around if you want proof and/or are interested.  People are saying the usual tripe.  “Everyone needs to carry concealed to protect themselves.”  “Morons are going to end up with their heads separated from their bodies because the cops can’t get there fast enough and everyone else complies with the no gun at work rule.”  “Shoot first, ask questions later.”  “Everyone needs to carry everywhere.”  “First confirmed domestic kill of an Islamist extremist.”  [Duh, no.]  “How long will it be before Sharpton and Jackson start the wailing and gnashing of teeth over a black man shot by a white cop for simply exercising his freedom of religion?  Wait for it, in 5, 4, 3, 2…”  [Ouch.]  “Better to be judged by 12 than carried by 6 or beheaded by 1.”

It’s equally extremist verbal filth, from the far right, and doesn’t help any side heal and move forward.

Yet equally, others from the left are saying how it’s another example of workplace violence in America.  Another reason to ban guns / weapons (ummm, the dude cut off the lady’s head with a giant vegetable knife, in a food processing plant.)  Others are saying why didn’t the reserve cop shoot him in the leg or arm instead.  Etc., etc., etc.  Muslim groups in America are also rightly condemning the actions of Nolen, saying what he did is the “antithesis of every teaching of the Islamic faith”.

I for one believe that Mr. Vaughan is a hero.  He heard about what was happening, retrieved his weapon (with his police training kicking in), and donned his vest (with him saying in a statement that he did so, due to wanting to ensure that any responding police would identify him as not being the actual suspect), and then took out Nolen.  To those saying he shoulda killed him, or shoulda shot him in the leg, etc., etc…

Police shoot to stop the threat.  Period.

It’s not about shooting to kill, as some gun haters call it.  It’s about using hydrodynamic shock (from the bullets going through the body’s tissues) to impart enough damage on the subject’s central nervous system and/or cardiovascular system to cause them to lose bodily strength and control, so that they no longer present an imminent threat of serious bodily harm or death to someone, be it the police officer or a separate subject / civilian.  Yes, there’s actually all this theory and science behind it.  Yes, it can cause someone to die obviously.  But, that’s not the main intent (unless you’re a sniper, and/or that’s the only shot to go for is a “kill shot”.)  It’s all about stopping the threat.  Double-tap into center mass.  That doesn’t work immediately, more rounds downrange in double taps, and/or aim for the noggin’.  It’s called the “fail to stop drill”, or what Hollywood and old-school thinking calls “two in the chest, one in the head”.  And this is all happening during the oodles of tactical considerations and decisions being made in nano seconds.  Mr. Vaughan’s training kicked in, put at least two rounds into Nolen, dropped him.

Kudos.  Time will tell if this is an extension of the ISIS beheadings and/or the ISIS demands for supporters to act, or just simply a heinous act by a copycat.  But for now, what remains is that Mr. Vaughan stopped things from potentially getting much much worse.

Cheers all.

Cigar Review – RyJ Romeo No. 2 tubos, Ago 2008 “MAS” box code; Final Score – 86

So, here’s my second cigar review to start off this blog.  Since I decided to get this blog off the ground and running, I’ve was thinking over what cigars I’d like to review first.  My initial three?  Romeo y Julieta Coronitas en Cedros (done yesterday), RyJ Romeo No. 2 tubos (this review here), and Montecristo No. 4.

The Coronitas en Cedros that I had yesterday was damn good.  I was very happy with the end result on that one.  Can the Romeo No. 2 fare as well?  Let’s see how it rolls along…

On to the review:

Reviewed Cigar:  Romeo y Julieta Romeo No. 2 tubos

Box Date:  Ago 2008

Factory / Manufacture Code:  MAS

Packaging:  25-box, standard dress box, tubos

Price per cigar:  $4.68 USD (online vendor, 2008)

Length:  5 1/8″, or 129 mm

Ring Gauge:  42

Format:  Petit Corona

Weight:  9 grams / 0.3 oz (out of tube)

Construction/Appearance & Pre-Light:  This is another cigar that comes from a box I bought in 2008, and is from one those same first orders that I started keeping a log with of my purchases to track box codes, prices, retailers, etc.  As I mentioned with the Coronitas en Cedros review, while I don’t smoke a lot of these RyJ’s anymore due to changes in my tastes, I still will keep (good, hand-picked) boxes of these in my humidors.  These are always good for a good core hit of RyJ flavours for me, and the presentation of these are always nice, especially with the RyJ artwork and the tubos.

These were machine made up until 2002, and this particular box was the first one that I got after they started doing a painted tubos – previous to these in 2008, the tubos were a simple unpainted brushed aluminum, with some red text printed on it with a bit of golden yellow.  I do like the painted tubos with some of the other lines (Cohiba, Montecristo, etc.), but with RyJ, part of me wishes they’d have stayed with the unpainted brushed aluminum with the red and yellow printing on it.

The construction on this particular smoked cigar was decent enough.  Slightly rustic and rough looking wrapper to it, but lovely colours again of a reddish-tinged Colorado maduro.  No soft- or hard-spots.  The triple cap on this was PERFECT – I love when a cigar’s triple cap slightly curves down the curves of the head itself.  This lends it a decent anchor for when the head is cut – I hate when it’s a fairly shallow triple-cap, and if you cut too much of it, the edges of the triple starts to unravel as it gets wet from saliva as you smoke.

After clipping, the draw on this one was fairly restrictive, but passible.  Tasting it at cold, I was getting cherry tones, damp old leather, and loads of brown sugar.  Almost of “demerara” sugar, that really dark, damp, dark brown sugar that has quite a measure of molasses in it.  Wonderful.

Opening Impressions:  After lighting up and initial draws, the draw was just perfect when lit.  The body/density of the smoke was too thin though, barely present honestly.  Hits of wet, old leather and dome damp wood.

First Third:  Into the first third, it didn’t perform too well.  After about the first 1/8 of an inch into the cigar, the draw bogged right now.  Horribly restrained draw.  Minimal amounts of smoke, and just the leather tone, surrounded by some dark cedar wood.  The sugar sweetness and cherry tinge disappeared – the excitement was waning for me.  Thankfully – I had a big glass of rum and was yet again sitting in the hot tub!  Coulda been worse…

Second Third:  Into the second third…it got worse.  Paper.  Cedar scented paper.  That’s what I seemed to be smoking.  Overly restrictive draw continued.  To add on to it, I started daydreaming heavily – I honestly don’t even remember anything from the start of the 2nd third, all the way into the opening of the final third.

I started thinking about some close co-workers – they’re in a tough, scary, sandy spot right now.  Though we haven’t heard too much, I know it’s hard going for them.  All my best thoughts and best wishes are travelling their way.

So, I tried to clear my mind of other thoughts.  Next thing I knew…

Final Third:  Into the last third, and where the hell did this come from?!  Suddenly, as I was literally just about to pitch this damn thing, the draw seemed to open up, and thus the flavour flood came a flowin’.  DAMN!!!!  Dense, lush puffs of smoke.  Huge intermingling hits of dark cherries, cedar wood, mild chocolate, and almost an unsalty pistachios tone.  Brown sugar goodness.  Some leather tones too.

This final third – damn, if only the whole cigar had been like this.  Nubbed it, and savoured this last chunk slowly.

Finishing Comments / Overall Impression:  I really wished this cigar had been throughout what the final third ended up being.  Wow.  Such a turnaround for this cigar.  I was so close to chucking it and giving it a 77-80 or so.  But this final third really redeemed it.  And that’s unfortunate, because had it not been as restrictive as it was earlier, I have no doubt it would have been stellar.  Likely a plug / tight spot of some sort that I ended up suffering through and smoking through when I was daydreaming through the second third.

Final Score:  86

Total Smoking Time:  1 hr and 15 minutes

Paired Beverage:  Havana Club Anejo 7 Anos and Coke Zero

Last Meal:  Roasted-garlic-and-red-pepper Kraft dinner, 2-1/4 hrs previous

Date & Time Smoked:  September 23rd, 2014; lit up at 3:10 pm, done at 4:25 pm

Smoking Conditions:  Sunny, light wind at 22 km/h, 19 degrees Celsius, 57% RH

Thanks for reading my review. Hope you enjoyed it.

Cheers all.

Cigar Review – RyJ Coronitas en Cedros, Nov 2007 “URO” box code; Final Score – 91

So, I’ve got my first review here for this blog.  Since I decided to get this blog off the ground and running, I’ve been thinking over what cigars I’d like to review first.  No pretentiousness, no pressure, minimal bells-and-whistles, and just about the cigars themselves.  Well, I picked my initial three that I’m going to do, and it’s all about simplicity and roots for me – Romeo y Julieta Coronitas en Cedros, RyJ Romeo No. 2 tubos, and Montecristo No. 4.

These three cigars were among my main introduction to cigars back in ’97 when I first got into fine Habanos.  I didn’t know or care enough at that time to make any detailed notes or whatnot on what I was smoking, so I’m not 100% sure exactly what were my actual first cigars.  But I do remember that these three were always in there for me at the start, with the two RyJ sticks being my main ones at the time.  Then, after stepping away from cigars in 2002 when I quit smoking cigarettes, and once I got back into cigars in 2004/2005 or so, these three were my main ones to get started with again.  They were my comfort smokes.  Inexpensive and not overbearing, these RyJ cigars were my first box purchases in the late 90’s, and again in 2005.  And, as I’ve said before to people, these three varieties of cigars will always have a place in my humidor.  That cherry element with the RyJ profile, and the light chocolate and coffee-with-cream elements in Montecristo, just worked so well for me and my palate at the time.  But, it’s actually been a while since I smoked any of these particular RyJ, so let’s see how it rolls along…

On to the review:

Reviewed Cigar:  Romeo y Julieta Coronitas en Cedros

Box Date:  Nov 2007

Factory / Manufacture Code:  URO

Packaging:  25-box, standard dress box

Price per cigar:  $3.95 USD (online vendor, 2008)

Length:  5 1/8″, or 129 mm

Ring Gauge:  40

Format:  Petit Corona

Weight:  Forgot to weigh this one particular cigar first, but they average about 7.5 to 7.6 grams

Construction/Appearance & Pre-Light:  This cigar comes from a box I bought in 2008, and is from one of the first orders that I started keeping a log of my purchases to track box codes, prices, retailers, etc.  As I mentioned earlier, while I don’t smoke a lot of these anymore due to changes in my tastes over the years, I still will keep (good, hand-picked) boxes of these in my humidors.  These are always good for a core hit of RyJ flavours for me, and the presentation of these are always nice.

A cedar-wrapped cigar always has an added bit of presentation appeal to it.  Up until 2002, these Coronitas en Cedros cigars were machine made (along with many others in the cheaper end of the RyJ lineup) so I have no doubt that the decision to cedar-wrap them was to both help with the visual appeal of usually-unappealing-looking machine-made sticks, and to also impart additional cedar aromas and flavour.  I also remember these being cellophane sleeved back in the late 90’s when I had them then, and part of me is nostalgic for that too.

This particular smoked cigar was very nice.  Quite stellar looking honestly, when you consider the inexpensive nature of the cigar, and the crap that can come out from the RyJ lineup as well.  One decently annoying vein down the one side though.  This cigar’s wrapper was a very lush reddish-tinged Colorado maduro – my pictures hopefully illustrate that well (no photo trickery in my pictures, as I’ve stated here in the About My Reviews page).  Slightly veiny and bumpy, the triple-cap and construction was quite nice overall.  The cigar is decently firm as well, with nice bunching and construction showing at the foot.

After clipping the head, the draw was just a bit more free-flowing than I like to see for a petit corona.  Almost too wind tunnel-like.  Taste at cold?  DAMN!  Huge hits of a sweet cinnamon, lots of rich cedar wood, and a light fruity sweetness (not quite cherries, but a sweet bite of a juicy red apple perhaps?)

Opening Impressions:  After a lighting up and initial draws, the draw was actually just perfect when lit.  As soon as the flame and heat hit the tobacco, it firmed up enough to let the draw restriction be just spot on for smoking.  As it was a cool and damp night, and I was stepping into the hot tub to enjoy this, I’ve got no doubt that the heat combined with the high humidity in the air to slow the restriction up on it.  The body / density of the smoke wasn’t as thick and viscous as I usually like, but there was a light silky wispiness to it on the mouth-feel.

First Third:  Into the first third, this thing started to hit its stride right off the bat.  BAM!  Flavours of sweet cinnamon candy, with some sugary butter cookies there on the edges as well.  Rich, dense cedar wood, with a core fruity sweetness.  Still not getting my cherry tinge though…

No relights needed in this third; burn was going very well.  Smoke was getting a bit lighter almost in its density, but just right in the volume of the smoke itself.

Second Third:  Into the second third, and got what I was looking for – cherries.  Although, not the usual “stewed-fruit” cherries that I usually get (think of cooked cherries in a saucepan – cherry pie filling, but without all the sugar and fake stuff).  I was getting more of a spicy cherry, with that cinnamon edge and woody sweetness.  Almost like…hmmm…

Needed a slight cosmetic relight at the start of the second third.  Burning well.  Very humid in the air, especially sitting in the hot tub.  Trying to figure out the “what is that flavour peeking around the corner” aspect, while laying back and watching the night sky, the jetliners and satellites floating by on a crisp and super-clear starry night.  Kids in bed, soaking a severely injured leg since the stitches are all now out (stupid mistake on my part just over two weeks ago), and enjoying a nice strong drink.  Past the midway point on the cigar, needed an actual full-on relight.  A few more puffs, hitting the middle stride of the second third, when…


Full-on flavour, and it was a winner – dark, bittersweet chocolate, cedar smokiness, and all highlighted by a strong, unsweetened cherry aspect with a brandy richness to it.  Think…chocolate brandy beans, those Christmastime chocolate goodies filled with booze.  But filled with cherry brandy instead!  That’s what I was getting – a smoked cherry-brandy-filled chocolate brandy bean candy.  Not overly complex – very bold, in-your-face flavours.  But a great profile for this cigar for me, and very enjoyable.

Last Third:  Into the last third – the chocolate pulled back a bit.  Still had the faint cherry brandy aspect there, but mixed with more of a rich old leather tone, in there with the cedar aspect, and some fragrant but light toasted tobacco tones.

Now, I will state here that usually a laugh to myself a little whenever anyone, or myself for that matter, uses “toasted tobacco tones” in describing a cigar’s flavour (LOL – seriously dumbass?  “Toasted tobacco tones” on a lit cigar?!?!  Fucking DUH!!!).  But it really was in play here.  Kind of how actual toasted-bread smells one way, but tastes another, and how that’s different from plain untoasted-bread – how toast has that sweet, lightly charred, baking flour simplicity that warms your belly.  Well, this “toasted tobacco” was letting me know it was nearing the end, that the sweeter tones were leaving the mix, but that it had been an enjoyable experience.  Well worth the smoke.

Finishing Comments / Overall Impression:  This is how I remember and think of these.  Cedar, unsweetened stewed cherries, and light leather, with hints of candy / chocolate goodness.  The cherry brandy and chocolate brandy bean flavours were a bit surprising, but very welcome as well.

This was great.  Aside from a few relights into the final third as well, which I definitely attribute to the excess humidity, this was great.  Didn’t nub it exactly, but came pretty close for this cigar…

I was a bit back and forth on the score for this, as it’s not an overly complex flavour profile, but it brought a lot to the table for what it is, and showed the marca’s blend characteristics in spades.  Very happy with this smoke, all things considered.

Final Score:  91

Total Smoking Time:  1 hr and 1 minute

Paired Beverage:  Havana Club Anejo 7 Anos and Coke Zero

Last Meal:  Three-cheese lasagna Hamburger Helper, 4 hrs previous

Date & Time Smoked:  September 22nd, 2014; lit up at 9:27 pm, done at 10:28 pm

Smoking Conditions:  Cool, clear night, faint breeze, 7 degrees Celsius, 89% RH

Thanks for reading my review.  Hope you enjoyed it.

Cheers all.

Champ and Chump of the Week…

So, here we go again with my “Champ and Chump of the Week”.  What newsmakers this week, from various world events, would we generally like to see put into a Hall of Fame, or on a Wall of Shame?  I’m continuing making this a regular Monday thing here – my “Champ and Chump of the Week” when it comes to various world news stories that have impressed or depressed me over the course of the week previous.

A side note as well here…

I’m not sure if I really want to keep this section.  After I posted last week’s, I thought it over – about whether it really fit in with my personal nature, and the personna that I wanted to represent me here on my blog.  I mean, who the hell am I to say who should be a Champ or Chump?  Who am I to call out other people like this?  But, it’s kind of a tongue-in-cheek thing that I thought might suit this space on here.  Let me know your thoughts.  I know I only just started up my blog, but let me know how it sits with you all over the next few weeks.  If people get a kick out of it and enjoy it, I’ll continue; if not, I’ll axe it by November or sooner.


CHAMP:  Scotland

Damn.  What a vote.

With this referendum on separating from the United Kingdom, Scotland has really put on a first class show.  To have as high of a voter turnout as they did is amazing – the highest in the developed world since universal suffrage in the 1920’s or so, with the next highest vote only being in Britain itself in 1950 after WWII.

Sure, this vote in Scotland had lots of divisions locally, yes, as any passionate vote can do that.  But no mass riots, no stupid anger killings, no widespread claims of vote rigging, etc.

Scotland really put on its game face for the rest of the world about how a vote of such importance can take place without the partisan hatred and voter apathy that many other countries suffer from.

Anyways, Scotland – you’re my Champ of the Week.

CHUMP:  the new Apple iPhone 6, iPhone 6+, and that dude who dropped it

Seriously – these i-Idiots stand in line for a week prior to the product release (apparently ordering something online is too outta vogue for them, and they gotta “hipster” their way to a new phone by camping out and surviving on Starbucks and Clif  Bars for 6 days while they wait for “the next big thing” to arrive on store shelves).

In the lead up to this variant’s release, some of these phones are going for over $3000 USD online through grey-/black-market vendors.  And…there’s i-Idiots who will pay for that.

To couple that off, some schmuck did a wanna-be box reveal live on Australian TV, at the front of the lines to get one of these new iPhone 6’s at the store, and then – he let the phone do a stage dive…

iPhone 6 drop…

So, instead of spending all that hard earned money on a downpayment for a car, or their higher education, or some home renovations maybe, these people (and I’ll generalize that its mostly college-aged kids, mind you, so it’s likely student-loans money, or Mom’s-and-Dad’s money), these people spend all this coin on something that could easily turn into a big shiny paperweight.

Hell, why don’t we spend that money and fly around the world just to be first in line, and then promptly drop the phone on purpose in a “drop-test review” video!!!!!!!

Hey, I’m an Apple fan as much as most care to be.  While I run a Windows desktop computer at home and then a laptop for on the go, my wife and I have thoroughly enjoyed the intuititve nature of our iPhones.  We both have an iPhone 4, that we both got back in – gasp – October 2011.  And yes, amazingly to some of these i-Idiots, they still work nearly perfectly (the vibrate function is toast on mine) and they DON’T NEED to be updated.  We both love how well they mesh with our styles, and everything else we do on our Windows computers (love how easy the syncing is).  My wife also bought an iPad Air back in March for school, and I’m looking at buying one also for the end of this month (or I may wait until the end of October to get the expected-to-be-released iPad Air 2) – it would make things a lot easier for when I’m travelling for work.  Hell, we’ve even been discussing for the last few weeks about going in and taking a free-upgrade offer from our mobile provider, and getting new iPhone 5S’.

But, here’s the thing:  while Apple makes some great electronics, and if you have a need for them, sure, get new ones.  Granted, some need to update regularly due to work reasons – those that have legitimate business needs and burn through cell phones due to excess charging cycles, software changes, etc.  But it’s the people that only use these things for Skyping and web browsing and Candy Crush that I’m talking about here.  Do you REALLY need to update these things like fanatics every year???  These types of people just seem to thrive on spending a week of their life lining-up for the new-product-release, just so they can have the newest-most-bestest-and-next-great-thing in their hands to show off to people, and then be satisfied…but only for 51 weeks until the next one comes out.

And these new 6’s just are batty to me.  Huge!  The 6+ could barely fit in my cargo pockets on my shorts, and that’s without a case.  LOL.  Dude, I remember when cell phones weren’t cell phones.  They were “car phones”, ’cause they had a giant base-unit-in-a-bag connected to them, and a cord that you plugged into the cigarette-lighter in a car, and a giant honking handset with a cord!  Then…phones got smaller – everyone remember the Motorola StarTac?  Little fold up cell phones.  Then, the smart rage kicked in, and we were good for a while, until this “phat-tablet” thing started.  It seems like all cell phone makers are in a race to create bigger and more feature-packed phones now.  Pretty soon, my iPhone 17 is gonna be cutting the damn lawn, a la iRobot- / Roomba-style!

The concept of upgrading every year with something like this just turns me for a loop.  Especially when you consider that alot of these passionate / fanatical Apple customers are the same types who rant on other people’s spending and polluting habits.  Couldn’t you just see these types freaking out at other people if they were to trade-in and upgrade their cars every goddamn year??  Or buy a whole wardrobe’s worth of all-new, non-natural, synthetic-fibre clothes at the end of every season??  To me, not much of a difference here.

Use something until it’s broken and unfixable / irreplacable, obselete, or otherwise in need for an upgrade – sure, completely understood.  But to “have to” upgrade every 12 months for the same damn thing with only an extra bell or whistle, and I gotta say, what’s the point????  Chumps of the Week, in my opinion.

Cheers all.

Inter-Tabac trade fair in Germany this weekend…

So, this weekend is “Inter-Tabac” – the International Trade Fair for Tobacco Products and Tobacco Accessories (whew – that’s a mouthful!) – to be held in Dortmund, Germany (ze Germans are komming!!!!) starting today through until Sunday, September 19 to 21, 2014…

Almost 400 exhibitors from the tobacco industries from 50 countries.  One hell of a gathering.  Habanos S.A. and Fifth Avenue Trading (the H S.A. distributor in Germany) will be taking a prime position there.  The various webpages talk about the new Por Larranaga Picadores (2014 new release that started to show up around the world a week or two ago) being there front and center.

I have two things to say on this…

First – I can’t wait to get my ass down to Havana yet again this upcoming November for the Encuentros Partagas (“Friends of Partagas” Festival typically occuring the 3rd week of November each year, and the smaller red-headed step-child to the Habanos Festival).  That way, I can hand pick through a nice box or two of these new PL Picadores.  I haven’t been overly keen on any new releases in current years.  The last ones I really honed in on was the RA Extras EL 2011 (love those!), and then the Trinidad Robustos T release (and we all unfortunately remember what happened to these – while wonderful, priced wrong, underloved by H S.A., and then murdered silently and swiftly much to our chagrin).  But, anyways, the reminder of these PL Picadores hitting the market has definitely whetted my appetite.

Secondly (and more importantly and relating to the Inter-Tabac fair) – methinks, mehopes, and mewishes that we’ll see some news releases over this weekend or early next week regarding the eagerly anticipated Ramon Allones 898 RE 2014 Germany.  With Fifth Avenue obviously being at this event, and them as the regional distributor spearheading the RE releases for their region, this is one RE that when announced last year connoisseurs worldwide piqued up with interest.

The RA 898’s where loved, but unfortunately in the shadows, and thus fell the axe of H S.A. discontinuations.  I’ve honestly never had one that I can remember – I don’t remember trying one of these back in the late 90’s when I first got into cigars, and they were all but discontined and gone (save for private sales with expensive premiums attached) when I got seriously back into cigars in early 2005 and started building my personal aging stock again.

But I, like many others, am a huge fan of Ramon Allones as a marca, and find the blend’s core flavour profile (astutely referred to by many as unsweetened “stewed”-cherries, or Christmas cake / plum cake) really meshes well with my taste buds.  As I said earlier, that RA Extras EL release really checked all the right boxes for me.  As much as some may dislike the Edicion Limitada program of recent years (which I do agree with overall), every once in a while the stars align.  With the RA blend, more so when paired with an EL release.

So, many of us, with fandom of the RA blend and the reverence of the now-discontinued 898’s both in the back of our minds, have been looking forward to seeing this RA 898 RE Germany since Fifth Avenue and others confirmed them as being the 2014 release.  All we’ve known for a year or so now is that they’re supposed to be a throwback to the same RA 898 blend, a classic “dalias” format again, that they’ll likely sport the “vintage” green-and-white RA band like what was on the RA Extras, and that there’s apparently to be 2000 boxes made with 25 cigars each.

With 2014 almost done now (not surprising timeline given H S.A.’s past timeline kerfluffles), and given that it’s a German release, with many in the industry in Germany this weekend for the Inter-Tabac trade fair, it just makes for great PR.  I’ve got no doubt that Fifth Avenue was likely planning and pushing for it.  We’ll have to give it some time to see if H S.A. was able to deliver, and we might hopefully have some further details and photos after this weekend, all the better to whet our appetite before they hit the market.

Cheers all.

Champ and Chump of the Week…

There’s a sports-news-talk radio station out of Detroit that I really like to listen to when I’m home – 97.1 “The Ticket”.  Well, one of the daytime-shows on there do a bit called “Champ and Chump”, where every Monday they have listeners call in with their nominations for a sports figure Champ and Chump for the week previous (ending Sunday).  I’ve always loved this.  It’s amazing how some people’s nominations can go, too, depending on where their team allegiances lie – quite frequently, they have people calling in to nominate the same sports figure, but one person will be a vote for Champ, another for Chump.  Just yet another example (cigars, politics, religion, cars, food, etc., etc.) of how beauty is truly in the eye of the beholder – a differing viewpoint can make all the difference sometimes.

Anywho…I love this idea, but have always thought it applied to so much more than sports.  Since I started listening to this radio station years ago, I’ve always had this “Champ and Chump” thing in the back of my mind when reading and hearing about various world news.  Who, in various world events, would we generally like to see put into a Hall of Fame, or Wall of Shame?  So, I’m gonna pirate the idea a bit and tweak it to make it my own.  I’m gonna try to make it a regular Monday thing here – my “Champ and Chump of the Week” when it comes to various world news stories that have impressed or depressed me over the course of the week previous.


CHAMP:  Pope Francis

What a pendulum swing the Roman Catholic church has been on over these recent years.  As a born and raised one myself, I’ve been anything but “Catholic” since adolescence – adulthood definitely threw back the veil from my eyes, especially after some missionary trips to the Dominican Republic in the mid-90’s.  While I generally feel and respect that there’s “some great deity up there”, I also generally disdain the “big business”-like attitudes, corporate greed, and inner-sanctum-secrecy that the Church has been exposed for lately.  For me, it’s similar to that line from the movie “Stigmata”, where the Church tried to hide a gospel of Christ Himself, stating “…the Kingdom of Heaven is inside you and all around you, not in buildings of brick and stone…”, etc. – self-serviant pricks.

But, not to turn this into a diatribe about organized religion itself (as there’s definitely some good ones [religions and persons within each] out there)…

Case in point – Pope Francis.  The Church as a whole is definitely seeming, in recent years, like it’s wanting to correct actions and attitudes in the past that have been hard for them to move past, but still with lots of the higher clergy acting like ostriches with their heads in the sand, refusing to make right a wrong of the past.

Pope Francis seems like he wants to lead that charge of change.  How?  By marrying a bunch of adulterors living in sin, and bastard-breeders (according to how some of these crusty pricks in the Church would refer to them)…

“Pope Francis marries 20 couples — including bride with daughter from previous relationship”

“Pope Francis Marries 20 Couples at Vatican: Why It’s Important”

Good for him!  Friggen’ awesome!  After all, I remember when I was active at church as a young kid and then as an alterboy (don’t read too much into that, before your mind goes to the gutter), that when I wasn’t falling asleep and missing ringing those damn bells signalling the priest was holding up that giant stale cracker, that every now and again there was a homily with some good messages.  But mostly teachings that God and/or Jesus wanted us to love our neighbours as we do ourselves, to treat everyone like a trusted family member and friend, to love each other, to do as would be done upon us, etc.

So, its awesome then that Pope Francis is reinforcing that feeling of humanity and humility within the Church.  It’s been BADLY missing lately.

You just know though that there was likely a consortium of crusty old prick cardinals in the other room, and when word spread of what the Pope was doing, they were like, “WTF DID THAT JAGOFF JUST DO?!?!?!!?!?”

Good for the Pope, man.

But…imagine being the poor pricks who got married by him.  It’s been 14 years since a Pope married anybody.  DAMN.  Like a marriage doesn’t have enough stresses and pressures on it!  Imagine getting married by the Pope – if your marriage fails, you’ve got one HELL of a lot of people shitting down your throat afterwards!!!!  You guys out there think your mothers and mother-in-laws can give you a hard time now; imagine what it’d be like if your marriage failed after you brought the family before a Pope!!!

Anyways, Pope Francis is my Champ of the Week, for leading by example, continuing to work on striking out the hypocrisy that the Catholic Church seems to be built on, and working towards a better future for Catholics hopefully.

CHUMP:  Roger Goodell and the NFL

Seriously – like WTF?!?!?!!?

Like the NFL doesn’t have enough issues going on, that Goodell and the NFL decides to shit the bed on this whole domestic-assault-of-players’-wives-and-kids thing.  I’m not even bothering to quote any news links here – there’s more than enough you’ve likely already been bombarded with here.  Whether you like football or not, if you don’t know what’s been going on with Ray Rice, Greg Hardy, Ray McDonald, Adrian Peterson, et al, you’ve either got your ass stuck at a research station in Antartica, or you’re a Martian.

And don’t get me wrong – I’m in no way against corporal punishment with your kids (for example) when needed.  I was spanked as a kid (needed it more than others maybe!)  I was even hit with a strap and stuff like that.  But times have changed, and the laws need to be respected (along with moral norms).  Throwing left-jabs and knocking out your woman, or beating your kid with a switch/branch is way different.

The NFL has already become the “No Fun League”.  It’s ridiculous anymore – I remember (and dude, I ain’t that old) when it was uber rare to have 20 penalties in a game.  We didn’t know who the referees know because it didn’t matter – the players were allowed to play the game.  They’ve messed with things so much, shit penalties that have no more gray area for “roughing the passer” or barely touching the kicker (after you’ve been hit in mid-air, and there’s no way to change trajectories)…but then in the same breath, their drug policy is a joke, and now this comes out.

Hey, I did specialized security years back.  I knew NFL and NHL stars that had wallets full of one special card – to a special 1-800 number with the league’s special on-call lawyers, ready to protect the interest of the leagues and the teams at all costs, whatever the issue.  Protect the bottom line.  Protect the leagues.  Pay off whoever’s needed.  This or that accident never happened, etc.  Such a crock of shit.  Same then, no doubt the same now.

Unfortunately for those of us who are into things for the pureness of the sport – it’s never gonna change, ladies and gents.  The commissioners don’t even run these leagues.  The bottom-line does, and the shareholders in that are the owners, the players’ associations, the sponsors, etc.  Fans and the pureness of the respective sports get fucked over for it.  It’s happened in hockey (gawd, just LOOK at what Gary Bettman has done to fuck up the NHL lately, but under the whim of the owners), cycling (a la doping scandals), even “amateur” sports (while I love the Olympics, even that’s gone to shit), etc., etc.

So Roger Goodell’s not the first to pull the wool over society’s eyes by covering up for his players beating on their chicas.  But the nature of how he’s shit the bed on this, and how it’s spiraled so ridiculously out of control (come on – you didn’t see/get all the video tapes from that casino/hotel?!?!?!?), makes him my Chump of the Week.  Jagoff.

Cheers all.

Some blog and online shout outs…

In getting this blog going, I’d like to make a few shout outs for some cigar-resources and blogs already out in cyberspace.

These are some various (mostly cigar-related) blogs and whatnot run by some good friends and acquaintances in the cigar world.  Each and every one of them have their own styles, their own individual aspects and backgrounds that they’re able to bring to the cigar world.  Some may be more active than others, but all have influenced the cigar world and me myself in one way or another over the years (and hopefully they all continue to do so in the future).  I think mostly all of these guys I’ve been able to trade cigars with, and even share many good cigars and drinks and great times with in person as well – they’re all good friends.  Whether their reviewing styles match up with your own palate/choices or not, these guys are some true “brothers of the leaf”…

  • The ‘Dirty’ Ashes: – this is a great blog solely on cigar reviews by a good local friend here in Canada, Art Sanchez.  Similar to most of us, myself included, he follows the “usual” cigar-review format (pre-light inspection, first-, second-, and final-thirds, as well as a final impressions).  His pictures are great (including his nicely manicured hands!), and the flow of his reviews are very clear, concise, and all-encompassing.
  • Nino’s Flying Cigar: – this is a well-known blog that’s been around for many years and run by Nino Muñoz out of Germany, my Spanish/German conquistador friend-slash-adoptive-uncle-slash-das-German-curmudgeon.  A very insightful fellow.  Like him or hate him (as recently some do unfortunately, out of some online spite lately over the upcoming Min Ron Nee encyclopaedia update / v 2.0), he’s brought a wealth of insider’s-views and knowledge to the online Cuban cigar world.  From great write-ups to some awesome photo spreads, he’s recounted us for years about some amazing cigar experiences while travelling the world and going to wonderful places with varying gastronomic experiences, as a recently retired (lucky bastard!) former banker and porter from Lufthansa Airlines.  Though some of his own personal posts have taken a backseat lately to the posts of some other close friends of his during his blog “retirement”, this blog has an extensive archive and wealth of knowledge from over the years, and hopefully will continue to be around for many, many years yet.
  • The Cuban House of Cigars: – this online blog / review site is the work of another good friend, Simon, as well as with Antonio (the manager for LCDH Montreal).  Simon’s put together a great blog and cigar review webpage here, in cohorts with LCDH Montreal as a business venture as well.  Though he’s just a young buck (don’t touch his hair!), he’s definitely got a way with words, and they’ve put up some great cigar reviews and some insightful looks into the events  and special goings-on of a wonderful LCDH that we all love to go to (great staff, and an awesome lounge – something that’s a rare occurrence in today’s non-smoking bylaw environment in Canada).  Simon’s a great guy, an old-soul in that kiddo (loves good jazz and other music too!), and his blog is one that’s definitely worth keeping an eye on.

Also, I’d like to mention few other resources here, mostly that I’ve become knowledgeable of (and also usually become personal friends with) through the cigar community at-large as well.  From coffee to book-learning, these are some great folks as well.  Now, I’m specifically not going to mention cigar retailers here.  There are lots of lists around the internet for that, so I don’t need to rehash about how or where to buy cigars online – there’s some great various primers out there, mostly on the various cigar forums on the internet.  But these are some great resources to also save the bookmarks for…

  • Friends of Habanos forum [FOH]: – the FOH forum is a damn fine one.  It’s the only cigar forum that I waste my precious time on!  Run out of Australia through an online cigar vendor, the FOH forum itself has an amazing cigar community attached to it.  A great place for respectful discussions of nearly all kinds, it’s run without the vitriol or “flame wars” that some online forums can unfortunately suffer from.  Be sure to check out FOH’s YouTube channel here for some great video cigar reviews – even if they are hilariously disfunctional sometimes!  And as long as Rob keeps my PSP list regularly stocked, I’ll be a happy camper, whether Ken (lovingly?!) regularly refers to us as “seal bashers” or not!
  • Canadian Cigar Forum [CCF]: – while only around for a few years, the CCF forum is a great one too.  Obviously Canadian-centric, it’s another great group of guys and gals.  While I’m not personally a member of this forum, I’ve met a number of the members from it at local events (as Canadians from FOH and CCF frequently get together locally), and it’s a stellar group as well.
  • Cuban Cigar Website: – one of the best resources on the internet for information, measurements, pictures, years-of-availability, and packaging explanations for Cuban cigars, bar none.  The information presented here usually far surpasses even that which Habanos S.A. releases through its own “official” channels.  Started back in 2006 or so by Trevor Leask, it’s mostly being run lately by Alexander Groom (some awesome blokes from Australia).  A number of items that could previously only be found in the Min Ron Nee book “An Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Post-Revolution Havana Cigars” can also be found here, through a co-operative arrangement (very useful if you don’t happen to have a copy of that tome).  CCW for years has been the most kept-up-to-date and authoritative resources around on Cuban cigars – just phenomenal.  Please, as a member of this community, please also remember to donate to help with the costs of running this non-commercial / non-profit and invaluable resource, and to keep it around for years yet.
  • Yul Cigars: – one of the best Cuban price-list resources around, for those travelling to the island.  Run out of Montreal by another great BOTL, this list is fairly regularly updated / accuracy-checked and is pretty much the most comprehensive of MSRP-style prices at the state-run stores in Cuba (be it LCDH stores, Caracol outlets, factory shops, etc.)
  • Habanos S.A.: – well, they make the cigars we all love (well, they’re the distribution conglomerate anyways), so their webpage sometimes does come in handy for information and size format particulars.  More of a marketing tool than information resource, the English needs interpretation to comprehend, but they still are a resource that’s out there.  Their warranty-seal barcode checker is accurate about as much as a rookie weatherman, but it is a neat party favour.
  • Rocketfuel Coffee: – my wife and I love Lisa’s custom joe blends.  A great sister-of-the-leaf as well.  You really get some amazing coffees for a great price with some inexpensive shipping.  If it’s not Cuban coffees (Cafe Serrano or Cubita) in my cup, generally it’s one of Rocketfuel Coffee’s blends – the Jamaican Blue Mountain, the pure Hawaiian Kona, and the Konakazee blend (Kona and expresso beans) are all awesome.  While I’m not mentioning cigar-related vendors here specifically, I’m mentioning this due to a cup of Lisa’s coffee being a perfect pairing (if you’re not having rum other other booze) to compliment a great cigar.

So, there’s a few of my most used and respected online resources and such.  Obviously, by no means is this anywhere near all encompassing or comprehensive.  And, if I neglected to mention a particular blog or webpage, in no way is this meant as a slight or negative – it’s just that the above have the “flavour” that best matches my wants and needs, and are some of both my most used, as well as the generally most respected within the cigar community.

Hopefully, some of the above can come of some use to you, if you weren’t aware of them before.

Cheers all.

[September 12th, 2014]


I know it’s a solemn date, but it’s 9-11, and I figured it’s best to use my first blog post, on this date, to honour the souls lost 13 years ago, and to also respect the sacrifice of those lost in the fighting since that date.  No matter your politics, nationality, religious beliefs, etc., etc. – everyone’s world changed drastically that day.

This post is in reverence to them.  Rest in peace, and may we never have to live out that terrible day again…

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

[Google Earth / AP photos]