National Mourning…

This sucks.

Yesterday, there was the incident in Toronto.

Man arrested after Toronto van attack charged with 10 counts of first-degree murder

Here’s what we know about the victims of the Toronto van attack

I was about to post a cigar review yesterday, and a couple other Cuba trip posts, but it’s not the mood / time right now.  At this point, I’ve been able to hear that most family and friends in Toronto are not directly involved, and all appear to be safe and sound.  Which is good to hear.  And it’s comforting to see how that city / this province / this country is coming together for this incident.

I lived in Toronto for a number of years back in the late 90’s and early 2000’s, and a place that I worked at was right at Yonge St and Sheppard Ave, right at Spring Garden Ave, just a few blocks south of Yonge and Finch Ave.  So, I know that region / plaza / street quite well – a very bustling area, with the Ford Center for the Performing Arts right there, and the plaza area surrounding the North York municipal center and whatnot.

Current reporting states that the arrested guy (and my hat’s off to the Toronto PS cop that nabbed the guy) used to be a Canadian Armed Forces member.  It sounds more like he was a “recruit” than a “member”.  By the sounds of things, he only made it through 16 training days out of his Basic Training when he started with the CAF last summer / fall, before he was punted out.  So, no, he didn’t become a full member of the Forces, as it sounds like he got turfed for simply not fitting in (but doesn’t sound like there were big warning bells on an incident like this either).  It might be interesting depending on what other info about this becomes known also.

But I know within the military, and policing as well, these types of incidents are always in the backs of our minds, as front line personnel, and for military and police planners.  Lone wolf.  Mental health issues.  Soft targets.  Hardened weapons-of-opportunity/convenience.  Etc.  Everyone worries about international terrorism, Al-Qaeda, ISIS, Boko Haram, etc.  But it’s these types of incidents that Canadians as a whole have had a lackluster approach to, as a society.  How many times do we hear “I never thought it could happen here” in the media stories???  Unfortunately, we think about it in military and law enforcement circles – hell, an old Warrant Officer of mine from a number of years back (before the Ottawa attack even) used to say that what Canadians unfortunately NEED is to have one of these types of attacks occur, on Canadian soil, on a big, soft target, to make everyone wake up and realize that complacency and shoving our collective heads in the sand won’t make the threats go away.  That our downloading of mental health beds/hospitals/treatment over two-plus decades has left a HUGE gap, and coupled with the budgetary limits placed on the Armed Forces and first responders, that it’s all a giant accident / incident waiting to happen.

So, we need to learn from this, and gain as much valuable insight as we can.  To not to be Chicken Little, and be afraid of our shadows, and deviate from our everyday lives.  But to simply have a slight vigilance about us, and to actually fund the personnel, training, and infrastructure for our military and law enforcement and first-responder institutions, to make us all the better prepared and ready should something terrible like this happen.

Thoughts and prayers (to whatever deity you worship) being sent to all directly or indirectly affected by this.  Hopefully the coming days and weeks will yield more answers, more understanding, some forgiveness, more tranquility and calmness, and more awareness of the underlying issues.

Cheers all.


CBC News Story – “Communist stalwart Miguel Diaz-Canel becomes Cuba’s president, ending decades of Castro rule”…

Meet the new boss.  Same as the old boss.

“Communist stalwart Miguel Diaz-Canel becomes Cuba’s president, ending decades of Castro rule”

Fingers crossed for them.  I say that (new boss / old boss), as that’s just what simply comes to mind.  But I dunno.  I hope for more positive changes.  I’ve seen the benefit since the 2008 transfer from Fidel to Raul, and then the Obama détente, and in last November’s trip, the DEFINITE pall that’s been cast since Trump rolled back some of those benefits.  As a few fellow travelling friends said then, Cubans have seen the benefit economically of having American tourism dollars roll in unabated, and now they’ve “had a taste”, so there’s a definite depressive feeling since it’s disappeared a bit again.

And as the CBC News story mentions, there is also the concern of removing the two-peso-system in place there (with both the CUC and CPE pesos in use), and the worry among some of us cigar travelers that we could wake up with our pocketed CUCs (sometimes said as the “C-U-C” letters, or stating CUCs in plural such as “cooks”, or more jokingly “cookies”) suddenly unusable overnight.  Though “the rules” on the island state that the CUC money is not to leave the island, and should be exchanged back-and-forth when arriving and leaving, there’s quite a few of us that pocket a few hundred bucks in hand when we leave, so that we have ready cash available for our next return to Cuba.  To simply have readily-available funds to grab a taxi at 3am from the airport, or something like that.  Some moolah on hand for hitting a restaurant or bar that first evening on the island, to be able to not fret about needing to hit a cadeca (money exchange) until later the next day or as needed.

So that is something that’s been talked about for 2 or 3 years now at least, about a perhaps overnight transition of their financial system, with some of us worried about any personally-held CUCs to be potentially worthless.  And the sounds back when a lot of it was first mentioned, a few years back, and discussed then was that the two-peso-system would remain until a Castro wasn’t in power.  So there’s a lot of chance that it will be one of the first things to change under Diaz-Canel, perhaps.  It’ll be interesting to see what he decides to do to pick up the economy, so to speak, with the current funk that things appear to be in from many accounts.

But, alas…first world problems there on us travelers losing out on a few CUCs.

There’s the definite note that Raul will still chair the party until 2022 or something like that, so Diaz-Canel will likely be leading while also being led himself.  So that’s where the “new boss/old boss” thought and comment popped into my head.  But, he definitely is of a different leadership ilk and generation than the Castro brothers, so I do hope for more positivity for Cubans with this.  Fingers (and toes) crossed.

Cheers all.

Encuentro Partagas 2018 anyone???

So, a friend on the FOH forum recently shared a picture of the general program poster for the Encuentro (de la yada y a yada) Partagas for this upcoming November 2018, and said no issues to share it here.

And fuck, I know I still have to update posts and such from my Partagas Fest trips to Havana from both November 2017 and even 2016 still, but I figured I’d get this up here ASAP for any wondering about the dates…


Apparently, this was on display back at the start of March, during the Habanos Festival.

Time to confirm and book my tickets, if they’re actually being that much in advance, and confirming again the move to the 2nd week of November instead (they’ve done that for the past year or so, as opposed to the 3rd week during previous years).  Weather’s turned out not too bad during the last few years, so…fingers crossed!

Cheers all.


Recently Updated “Cigar Price List For Cuba”…

So a great BOTL, Yann, out of the Montreal-area, he runs the YUL Cigars online price list tool for Cuban cigars, with pricing for purchases of Habanos right at the LCDH shops in Cuba directly.  I think I’ve passed along his info / blog-link before, and with high praise.

Well, recently, he passed along to a bunch of us in the different forums and groups that he’s just completed some further updating and additions.  He’s also now added pricing for a lot of the rums, coffees, wines and other goodies that Havana-philes specifically look for too.  So, it’s an absolutely awesome reference to look over.

Quite simply, you can find the price list at his link here:

An absolutely invaluable tool for anyone into cigars, travelling to Cuba, etc.  Bookmark it, save it, add it to your Favorites, whatever you need to do.  Note that all prices are listed in Cuban convertible pesos (CUCs).

Cheers all.

Arc’teryx and Danner Boots…why hast thou forsaken us?!?!?

So…I’m a gear whore.  That definitely rears it’s ugly head as it relates to both my cigar accoutrements, as well as my workplace gear.  I’m an EDC (everyday carry) geek somewhat – due to workplace training, I damn-near ALWAYS have a pocket knife (primarily as a tool, NOT a weapon) and little LED flashlight in my pocket.  I also generally try to have a seatbelt cutter and window punch tool (Res-Q-Me tool) on my keychains and duty gear.  I like to have a small “go-bag” of basic 24- to 48-hr essentials on me, usually in my vehicle if I’m out and about – I’m VERY impartial to this kick-ass 5.11 “RUSH / MOAB” single-strap pack, and have travelled with it both domestically and overseas, and it’s an extremely modular and well-executed piece of kit.

That’s just kind of my mindset, to have EDC stuff and gear on hand, even before getting into the Military Police, from my years of doing civvie Search-And-Rescue before – “plan for the worst, hope for the best”, “expect the unexpected”, etc.  So, over the years, I’ve bought, used, sold, and stockpiled some very unique and task-specific gear.  I’m glad my wife doesn’t back-check the credit cards too much!!!!

Anywho, so I’ve recently got back from some more deployment travelling stuff, and getting prepped and ready the last few weeks and months for a decent-length full-on deployment, and I’ve been getting some new gear and such.

Danner Boots.  Always worn them on patrol.  Have had a number of pairs over the years (mostly all different variants / colours of the Kinetic boots).  Looking to get some more pairs, including some hiking shoes.

Arc’teryx LEAF.  The “dead bird”.  Used a fair bit of their gear in years past, loaned from buddies and whatnot.  But trying to get set-up finally with my own LEAF account, and order some of my own gear.

And whaddya know, but both decide to fail horribly when it comes to the customer service aspect.

With Danner, I tried a few various types of boots, mostly tan or coyote colour.  Ended up focusing on the Desert TFX GTX / Gore-Tex.  HORRIBLE fitting boots.  Very drastic pinch points and whatnot at the ankles, really over-engineered and not-realistic lacing system, etc.  So, I go through the return aspects, and while it only took 2 days to order and have shipped out, it was “expected to take” upwards of 6-8 weeks to process my returned boots, and actually give me my refund back.  They had the shipment, but didn’t have enough people to process the return (wish they ran it like Amazon does with returns – very slick).

But in the interim there, I wrote some reviews.  Frankly, I posted one for the Desert TFX GTX on three different occasions.  After the 2nd time of it being up there, but then removed / deleted, I e-mailed them.  I was told, simply, that due to foul language it was removed.  There was only one insertion of a “WTF” in there (and literally, just those letters).  But, after a revision and resubmission, still removed and gone.

Honestly, I was VERY unflattering in my review.  And as a long-time Danner fan, I was definitely feeling let down by some of their products.  I’m actually waiting on more to try, and keeping fingers crossed.  But this experience had me look at their pages, and the reviews.  They actually don’t list them in order in any way.  It looks like they bury unflattering reviews on following pages.  Stuff is not on there in any reasonable chronological form.  And plainly, they have no issue deleting / not-publishing very harsh and critical reviews.  Very much a “controlling the message” aspect.  Hey – then LISTEN to people’s complaints (I noticed the issues I brought up have been brought up by lots of other people online outside of Danner’s reviews/webpages), and make a better product.  Quit ruining a great product, over-engineering and throwing the baby out with the bathwater, and then disappointing long-time customers.

So then we come to Arc’teryx LEAF…

I finally decided to get myself an account set up back on March 9th.  Weeks and weeks of getting ad e-mail sometimes every day (after I SPECIFICALLY unchecked boxes and ensure I would NOT be requesting to be put on spam mail lists).  But no follow-up about my submitted documents for an Arc’teryx LEAF account.  So I e-mail and e-mail, and finally get the following response just a few days ago:

Hi Keith,

Thank you for your email and apologies for the delayed response. Unfortunately we regret to inform you that this program is no longer operational.

We are committed to maintaining the highest level of customer service across all of our programs, however we learned that the LEAF Purchase Program has limited uptake yet requires significant program maintenance. For this reason, we made the decision to discontinue the program in order to refocus our efforts on other customer initiatives.

We are sorry for any inconvenience this may cause and ask that you please contact your local Arc’teryx tactical retailers for direct purchasing needs.

Kind regards, Oliver

WTF???!?!  Arc’teryx, that dirty ol’ dead bird, is discontinuing the LEAF program?!?!!?!?

What I’m understanding is that the products will be available, but no more discounted purchasing options now for military / LE members.

A quick Google search, and nothing to be found.  Nothing in any news releases, and nothing either to any of the various newsletters or a blog by Arc’teryx, as far as I can see.

I worry – who knows about this?  Figured I’d share it here.  Any military / LE members, those who have been enjoying the LEAF program for years…any word on this?

Frankly, I find this all very disappointing.

There’s lots of these companies out there that have BUILT their brands’ reputations on the backs of the military members, first responders, outdoors professionals, etc., who have purchased, used, and SWEAR BY the legendary quality and performance of these items.  Lives are trusted to this gear sometimes.

Due to all of this, these companies and brands have received MILLIONS OF DOLLARS’ WORTH of FREE ADVERTISING by those professionals using and spreading positive word-of-mouth on this gear.

So now they just bail?  They don’t respond to issues adequately, they hide bad reviews, they drop reasonable-discount programs in support of those who helped build their businesses?

Reminds me a bit of when I was posted to the base in Halifax, and I went to the Roots Canada store at one of the big local malls, and I found out that Roots had just recently cancelled their discount program for Canadian Forces members.  It was a 10 or 20% program (I want to say it was only 10 or 15% off).  But, the staff clerk ironically explained to me, the same corporate-internal release that notified stores of that discount ceasing for military members, also stated that a new discount program was being offered for all NHLPA members, to the tune of 40% or so.

Nice.  Very nice.  Thanks for nothing, I guess.

But spread the word about Arc’teryx – who knows; hopefully they’ll reconsider dropping the LEAF program.  Fingers crossed.  But my further e-mails have gone unanswered.

Cheers all.

I’m A Slacker…

Alright, I know I’ve posted it before – I’ve been tied up busy for the past few months, and haven’t really updated stuff on here for a while now.  But, I’m ready to rock-and-roll again in the next little bit, and have a ton of things lined up.

Lots of work stuff to post.  Planes, jets, mysterious countries, tools and toys-for-big-boys and stuff, etc.  Some cool stuff to put up here.  Frankly, some things needed to get past a standard “6 months after” timeline for posting.

Lots of cigar reviews coming.  I’ve got some really awesome stuff back-logged on that front.  Some new spots and stuff I’ve stumbled across too, and some stuff with cigar goodies.

And definitely, I still need to post write-ups from the Nov 2017 trip to Havana (and frankly, basic stuff from the Nov 2016 one too!)  So, there’s a bunch of pics and tidbits for that.

It’s coming.  Sorry all, but I’ll get my shit in gear and stop slacking!!!  LOL.

Cheers all.