Thursday, March 5, 2015

Book Review: Man's Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl



I picked up this book on the recommendation of a friend.

That recommendation was essentially, "It's an awesome book. The author is German and he wrote the whole thing in about a week."

I was intrigued but really had no idea what it was about. We had just finished a discussion about Richard Branson so I figured it was a book about entrepreneurship or business... or something like that.

Nope. Not even close. And I feel kind of dumb now because the book is fairly well-known and Frankl himself is a pretty big deal.

Victor Frankl as a young physician
Victor Frankl was a German citizen and was Jewish. You can see where I'm headed with this, right?

Yep, Frankl is a concentration camp survivor and his story details many of the things he witnessed, felt and somehow managed to live through at several camps during the second world war.

Frankl, who was a physician/psychologist, or logotherapist if you're familiar with his work, has fascinating insight into the mind's role in ending life. In other words, when do you get to the point where your body just gives up.

Dealing with patience with typhoid fever and helping them cope. Watching his fellow Holocaust victims search to find a way to deal with the tragedy and horror of day to day life, the first half of the book is filled with fascinating and troubling stories about life in the camps.

The second half of the book is a little dry. I'm not going to sugar coat. This is when the psychotherapist inside Frankl comes out. The theory he favors, called logotherapy, revolves around the idea that man's primary motivating force in life is to simply find out what the purpose of his life is.

Here's Frankl speaking in the early 1970's in Toronto on this very subject if you have time for the 4-minute clip:



"We have to be idealists in a way. If we take man as he is, we make him worse. But if we take a man as should be, we make him capable of becoming what he can be."

If you're looking for a good read that's fairly easy to get through (at least the first half), I'd definitely suggest checking out the book.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Valley of Ice



First time in a short time that we've had this kind of ice in the Tennessee valley.

I can't distinctly remember having a 1/2 inch coating of ice on everything like we woke up to this morning but I don't think it's been more than a few years.

There's some 'Murica in that photo if you look closely.
Nonetheless, it all led to some interesting photos and views on the dogs' walk earlier today.

It was a little bit eery as things start to thaw out. Walking by homes with icicles falling and tree branches tumbling from the weight of the ice and snow. East Tennessee definitely isn't used to this so when it happens, all the branches from several winters' worth of weight start to fall.

Tree with ice blossoms
Not yet spring.
I'm not an arborist but it looked like that poor tree had started to blossom. We have a lot of dogwoods in the area and several had red buds like that encased in ice.

The pups enjoyed the walk and now both of them are in dire need of a bath. Oh, the joys of winter.




Wednesday, February 11, 2015

AK Advice

Now that prices are back down to reasonable levels, I'm thinking about picking up an AKM.

Any thoughts out there on performance and value?

Century Arms' WASR doesn't have the best reputation from what I've heard but I'm intrigued by it because of the price. Although, it's Romanian made, which seems weird to me.



The Zastava is about the same price and Serbian made, which I'm a little more comfortable with.



Any other suggestions/thoughts are appreciated and welcomed...

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Review: Perdomo Habano Maduro Toro


A review of the Maduro in Perdomo's Habano line-up


I had a chance to check out the Perdomo Habano Maduro toro cigar the other day. A striking stick that overall, I wasn't displeased with but it's likely not going to be invited into my humidor again. This cigar was rated a 94 but I'm not sure why.

Construction:

Perdomo's burn line habano maduro cigar
Pretty. Right?

I'm a sucker for Perdomo's construction. They really do a fantastic job at their facilities. I don't know that I've ever had a cigar that wasn't absolutely striking from them. It just looks high-end and classy to me. The wrapper on this cigar was beautiful, the cap just about seamless and everything about it made me feel like I couldn't afford to toast it!

I had no problems with the initial light or the toast itself. I was fortunate to enjoy a nice, even burn throughout - along with some ash that was damn near picturesque.

A little different for me, I used the punch cutter instead of the traditional guillotine.
I'm generally a guillotine cutter kind of guy. Chop the cap and light 'er up. I chose to go with the punch cutter in this case. In part, I made that decision because the 54-ring gauge of the cigar is pretty hefty so I thought the punch cutter might make better work and, ultimately, offer me a cleaner draw. It's possible this impacted my impression of the stick but really, I saw no problems with the draw or the construction.

The Toast - Flavor Profile

First of all, I'm not sure if I'm biased against Nicaraguan tobacco or what. I love Oliva cigars but this Perdomo with filler tobacco primarily from the famed Esteli-region of Nicaragua didn't do it for me. I picked up some decent spice in this cigar. While other cigar smokers noted hints of cocoa or chocolate, I didn't pick that up at all. Instead, I got spice and just some stale smokey/tobacco flavors. Maybe my palate wasn't up for the task of truly enjoying this cigar.  Maybe some leather in there as well but definitely not cocoa.

This cigar is full flavored, in my opinion and definitely complex enough that it warrants your full attention. This ins't a cigar for Poker night but is definitely worthy of a toast if you're up for a quiet and reflective evening on the front porch.

Conclusion


If I could, I'd put this cigar on the wall and just look at it all day. Toasting it was, however, a very different story. It's worth trying, if for no other reason than the cigar experts love it. For my taste, however, this cigar scores in the low-80s with a 81/100 rating.


Monday, February 2, 2015

SHOT Show Crud

Sorry. Things have been a bit rough.

Returned from SHOT Show and have been stuffed up and dizzy ever since.

Hoping to be up for some cigars this week and should have more up here soon.

Until then, I'll be documenting my whacked-out, NyQuil induced dreams so be ready for stories like this once I'm able to steady myself at the keyboard!

NyQuil Dreams
Yep, that about sums up the power of NyQuil!

Monday, January 26, 2015

Snowstorms and Killer Ferrets

Too good not to post...

So, cable news is in high gear tonight. Like, Election Night "high gear".

On CNN, they're already wall-to-wall with a snow storm that hasn't hit yet.

On MSNBC, it's driving around New York City in a snow storm that hasn't materialized.

On FOX, they're still going off about the State of the Union.

But, fear not. I have Headline News.

No matter how scary the weather, the only thing truly worth fearing is right under my nose. And they work in pairs.

Ferrets attacking!
Nancy Grace, you wonderful beacon of journalism...
It's crap like this that truly makes Jon Stewart's job easy.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Cigar Review: Ashton VSG Robusto


It's been frigid cold here for the past week or so - because of it, time for cigars has been rough.

Had a chance Saturday to check out the Ashton VSG Robusto from my boys at Cigars City. Did so while walking the dogs, which was a huge mistake that I'll get into some detail about in a second.

Construction

Ashton VSG Robusto mid-way point

This is kind of an ugly cigar - I'm not going to lie. Lots of veins in the wrapper and definitely not as beautiful as some of the other cigars you can get in the same price-range.  The wrapper itself was dark and as I'd aged this in the humidor a few months, was oily and just about perfect in my opinion in terms of texture and feel.

These wrappers are grown on a private Ecuadorian estate that the Oliva family owns --- although the cigar itself is blended by Carlos Fuente, Jr.

I had some issues with my burn at first (which may have been attributed to the cold weather here). I had to relight several times in the first-third of the stick. After I got it cooking, I didn't have any problems through the rest of the cigar.

Flavor and Aroma

Many of the existing reviews out there rate this cigar very highly and classify it as very strong. While flavorful, "very strong" isn't an accurate description of what I encountered.

At first light, the Ashton VSG (Virgin Sun Grown) was a fairly pleasant toast for me. Not too strong right out of the gate but not as weak as some of the more mild cigars I've had. I was surprised that it rode sort of a middle section of my palate very well. I find many cigars are either too weak to be enjoyed or so strong that they overpower.

As I continued through the first third into the middle portion of the cigar, I didn't pick up any real flavor or aroma changes. It stayed consistent throughout.

This Dominican-made cigar has been highly acclaimed by many of the cigar experts out there, drawing a 93 rating recently. There is a decent amount of pepper but a ton of smoothness in this stick as well. Overall, I was very pleased with the flavor profile

Stop Walking While Smoking

Brr. It was a cold one!
In part because of a busy schedule and in part because of the cold, I haven't had much time to just sit and relax with a cigar on the front porch --- which is my go-to method for cigar tasting. I did take a moment after my walk with the Ashton VSG to simply slow-down and enjoy the cigar. I can't tell you the difference this made.

After an unscientific analysis, I think if I toast while walking I take quicker draws --- which likely causes the tobacco to burn hotter than it should --- destroying the cigar's unique flavor profile in the process. 

While I can't guarantee I won't walk and toast in the future - I feel like I cheated this cigar by not sitting back and taking slow draws. In the process, I cheated myself out of what is a really good stick priced at $8-$10 per cigar.