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Cigar Review #1 – CAO La Traviata Radiante

CAO La Traviata Radiante

Wrapper: Colorado-brown Ecuadoran
Binder: Cameroon
Filler: Long-filler Nicaraguan/Dominican
Size: 6×52 (Toro)
Price: $4.30

I’m sitting in my truck, at about 9:30 pm on Saturday, July 2nd. I’m listening to my local all-classical, all the time radio station, Classical 101 WOSU. I often like to listen to sports here in Columbus, but tonight, I don’t want to be distracted by talk, so I find classical is a safe, non-intrusive background for an enjoyable hour of tobacco. It’s a hot night… it’s close to eighty degrees outside, and because of a rainstorm earlier in the day, it’s very humid. I’m tempted to turn the truck on and get some A/C to cool off. In Columbus, during the Fourth of July celebration, we have the Red, White, and Boom fireworks display. That was last night, and the pyrotechnic kickoff to the weekend has left my neighbors indulging themselves. While I might otherwise be concerned that the pops and cracks are gunfire (I live in the South Orchard here in Columbus), but the proximity to the patriotic holiday puts my mind at ease.

My experience with CAO products has been almost exclusively positive. From the first CAO I tried, the MX2 dagger (I was a very inexperienced smoker two years ago) to the box of Brazilia Sambas I bought in North Carolina this past April, the draw and general construction has been mostly spot-on (with slight variations in the ten or so Sambas I’ve had). So it was with this expectation that I walked into my favorite humidor, at The Party Source in Newport, Kentucky. I immediately headed for the CAOs. Mike, the gentleman who spends most of his waking hours in the humidor, (I overheard him telling another customer, “This is my life,”) upon my inquiry about CAOs, suggested I give tonight’s cigar, the CAO La Traviata Radiante, a try. He suggested that it was a superior cigar to many of the CAO products, and at a very attractive price. Mike mentioned that it was among the best-selling cigars in his humidor. It’s a couple nights after the conclusion of a father-son trip to Virginia and Kentucky, and finally through Newport and Cincinnati, on which I picked up this stick that I head out to the truck to give it a go. I have high hopes given the auspicious recommendation, my experience, and the price tag.

I don’t really care much about the appearance of cigars at this point. I don’t put much consideration into how a cigar looks. While there’s perhaps some aesthetic considerations for some smokers, for me (unless there’s some subconscious things going on), I don’t much care. This is something that’s always baffled me about many cigar reviews I’ve read – that their final verdicts often weight things like appearance as heavily as construction and flavor. That seems like a rubbish approach to me. In any case, this cigar looks great. It’s a somewhat dark cigar, and at 6×52, it’s very attractive-looking, and insofar as these things heighten my anticipation, my excitement is not suppressed.

Unlit, the aroma is intoxicating. Since I’m not experienced enough to attempt to give notes on the aroma, I’ll just say that the tobacco doesn’t smell cheap. The cigar is definitely soft; there is a great deal of give when it’s tested. I nip the cap, and test the draw. It’s a little tight, but that seems to be the case for the CAO products I’ve tried. Nothing unexpected.

Upon lighting, I get the familiar billows of smoke, but despite turning it over the flame, I need two matches to get an even burn. The first puffs aren’t giving me anything distinct – it actually seems a little light on flavor – but I can definitely taste the burn at the back and on the roof of my mouth. This might be a function of construction, though, as after about five minutes, the burn is uneven, and it’s actually burning fairly quickly.

I tend to hold the cigar in the front of my mouth as I’m typing, sometimes holding it with my top teeth and my lower lip, and sometimes holding it in my teeth, both top and bottom. The give in the cigar is really pronounced. I almost want to hold the cigar in my fingers rather than in my teeth (using both upper and lower lip is uncomfortable, and it’s difficult to breathe, type, and smoke at the same time).

The unevenness seems to correct itself at about ten minutes, and the burn is less apparent, but the flavor isn’t picking up. It’s still fairly one-dimensional. It seems relatively medium-bodied, but this isn’t a flavor that I’m very excited about. The tobacco definitely isn’t cheap, but there really isn’t much complexity to it either. On the plus side, the ash is solid and isn’t looking like it wants to fall off in my lap. I’ve got a good inch of ash – this cigar is definitely not toothy, though, and I’m sure I’ll have to ash in a moment. It’s still a bit uneven.

After twenty minutes, I’m close to about half through the stick. I’m definitely starting to feel the cigar intensify. I wouldn’t say I’m aggressively smoking this, either. This is certainly not going to knock an experienced smoker over, but for someone accustomed to smoking a lighter cigar, or someone who smokes very rarely, this would be a bit of a risk. The cigar is still a little uneven, but nothing that requires my attention. The flavor is definitely pleasant, a little rich, but again, not complex. The ash is again hanging on for quite a long time; I’m only going ash a second time and the stick is half gone. Time to remove the ring.

In my experience, it’s a good idea to wait to remove the ring until the smoke is half-over (or later), because the gum that is used to affix the ring can sometimes adhere to the cigar, and removing it can damage the wrapper, which in turn can cause the draw to be disrupted, requiring repair or an otherwise distracting maintenance. Waiting until the cigar heats up can soften the adhesive, and removing the ring later will reduce the likelihood of damage. Even in the unlikely event of a wrapper’s compromise, the first half of the experience has been spared the disruption. In this case, the ring is easy to remove, and it comes off without incident.

At this point, the flavor is becoming more intense and is entirely pleasant. There are faint notes of pepper, and a medium tobacco experience (I lack the words in the youth of my cigar writing!), but there isn’t a great deal more going on, even as I near the three-quarters mark.

In the final quarter, the smoke is everywhere and it’s quite hot. I have to puff and then remove the stub from my mouth to avoid blinding myself. I really want to take it down, but I have to chuck it with about an inch remaining.

I’ve read that scared money can’t win at Poker. So it seems that scared money doesn’t result in a good smoke. If you’re on a tight budget (as so many are these days), La Traviata Radiante won’t break the bank. While it’s not as good a cigar as the other CAO products, it’s also less expensive. For a twice-a-week smoker like I am, this is a tidy smoke that isn’t disappointing, and doesn’t make me feel like I’ve wasted my occasional indulgence on something subpar. My impression is that the cigar is priced appropriately. I think it’s quite a good cigar for just over four dollars, but I’ll still be on the lookout for something else at this price point, and for my money, I’d be happy to spend another dollar to go up to an Arturo Fuente Flor Fina 8-5-8 or something else in that price range. Nevertheless, if you’re like me, you can buy this La Traviata Radiante with confidence that while it won’t blow you away, you’ll be satisfied with the experience.


Steal this Science Fiction Idea #2

I’d like to read a story in which there is a betting market, a-la Intrade, that offers a bet regarding the nationality of the perpetrator of the next terrorist attack. The idea is that betting markets tend to be excellent predictors of the future, and that in the case of these sorts of questions, reveal the beliefs of those doing the betting. The story could take place sufficiently far into the future that the market for prediction trading would be large enough that a conspiracy could be constructed. Let’s suppose that the market for “next terrorist attack on American soil perpetrated by an American citizen” would be manipulated. A group could bet huge money on this, and then actually arrange the perpetration of the crime, thereby getting a huge payout. Kind of like Le Chiffre in Casino Royale. Then you could have some insider in the scheme simultaneously arranging some other non-American to commit a terrorist act, thereby foiling the predictive market scheme.

Of course, many innocent bystanders would be killed. The idea, of course, is that the predictive market could be self-fulfilling.


Steal This Science Fiction Idea #1

So there’s a lot of stories on 365 tomorrows which feature the idea of a person’s mind being “uploaded” to somehow extend the consciousness of a person, thereby ensuring immortality, to whatever extent that makes sense.

I guess I’d like to read a story about the time after which the technology was initially developed; that the first person’s mind was uploaded and their body was left behind.

The protests by people who believe this to be unnatural… and the question of whether to do this yourself. The dilemma for Christian people to, in the eyes of those who trust in the technology, effectively commit suicide by not choosing to be uploaded… that Christian people might be thought of as we consider the Heaven’s Gate people in their cult suicide.

Then the question of whether the very first person whose mind was uploaded was really uploaded; what sort of test might there be? I imagine a massive number of people gathered in Times Square looking up at a screen and awaiting the voice of the first disembodied mind to speak to them, to assure them that everything is OK, that to be in a computer or whatever, that it’s safe to do and that people really might consider having their minds uploaded. How would people know that the person wasn’t just someone talking on a phone? Would the voice be the same as it was when the person had a body? How would that work? Would the voice be synthesized John Lennon style? What would the test be to ensure that the person was really there? Would there be someone else who is the only person that knows something about the subject and could verify the truth? Really, that’s an insufficient test, also falsifiable. Then there would be many conspiracy theories about the truth of the mind upload.

Maybe people believe it works and purchase plans to upload their minds at certain points… like hospitals could install mind uplinks for the moments before passing to ensure that the body life would be sustained as long as possible… but the mind could be whisked from the body at the last moment.

Maybe hospitals don’t do as good a job with preserving the body because it’s not that big a deal… the cure for terminal cancer needn’t be discovered because you can just upload your mind and it’s all good.

What if it really is just a hoax? Why would someone posit a mind upload? Certainly for something sustainable, as the profit gains for the technology would be massive… maybe the person who perpetrates the hoax indeed makes huge money off the process. I think there’s a faking of death resolution to this story idea… that the person makes a huge amount of money getting people to pay him to upload their minds, effectively killing them… he knows it doesn’t work, but his plan is to “upload himself” in a way that people will believe he’s a part of the system, then break the system… so that people will realize, “Man, I guess that didn’t work, that sucks, but at least the dude who was in charge of it is dead, what a tool.” But they can’t seek their revenge for the hugely culture-altering affects, not to mention that he’s basically murdered a huge number of people.

I’d prefer that he either get away in the end, or that he die but before dying he might attempt to tell his story to someone nearby, thereby “uploading” his life to someone in the normal, human way. Something like that.

Exhibitionist’s Dream

HT: Işılay Erol

I guess people could use this for going to the bathroom. Seriously, though… exhibit much?

On Monopoly

The market will always do a better job undermining monopolies than the Justice department will.

Erick Schonfeld

HT: Radley Balko

If you’re not with us, you’re against us.

Think pink gets much of its energy by offering a way for folks to be indirectly political; one can seem pro-women, and insinuate that others are anti-women, while only ever explicitly talking about health and medicine. AIDS awareness gets a similar political punch; one can talk only health, yet insinuate that others are anti-gay. Much of medicine is not about health, but about showing that you care, in this case caring about the right political groups.

Robin Hanson

Panera Bread is Terrible

So I’m sitting in a Panera Bread. This place is terrible.* There’s this classical music playing. Marginally famous, it’s just violin music meant to provide a certain background. The #108 thing White People Like is “Appearing to Enjoy Classical Music.” Let me tell you that’s totally true. I guess it’s better than having nothing on in the background.

But Panera Bread is terrible. I ordered a cinnamon crunch bagel, which is the only reason to go into a Panera Bread in the first place, and asked for it toasted, with butter. I get the bagel, and it’s unevenly sliced, because Panera Bread uses an automatic slicing machine that cuts the bagels unevenly. Home bagel slicers do a better job, they just don’t do as fast a job. So I get a terrible bagel cut for the convenience of the people I’m paying. Don’t get me wrong, I get that I’m paying for this terrible stuff, and I’ve always been a kind of “there’s no such thing as a ripoff” guy who blames the victim for all the bad things that happen. But here’s my poorly cut bagel that’s been toasted and is now slightly warm to the touch. Panera uses a toast machine that features a little conveyer belt that runs the bagel, hovering, along a series of heat coils, and then slides out the front. You know when you toast a piece of toast at home, and the toaster pops up, or if you use a toaster oven (which is my preference), it dings, and you open the toaster oven door? The bread or whatever is so hot that if you reached for it and touched it with your hand, you’d burn your hand. You have to kind of poke at the toast with a knife and attempt to slide it onto a plate so it can cool enough to handle to put the butter on. So I get my bagel and there’s three packets of butter on the plate next to the bagel. They’ve been refrigerated in what seems to have been some kind of dry ice-based cooling unit that causes the butter to be rock-hard. So I get that you want to keep the butter fresh. But the butter is for spreading on a bagel, and the bagel isn’t hot enough even to begin melting the butter. So I end up cutting the butter into chunks and letting the chunks sit between the two halves of the bagel until they’re soft enough to shove around on the surface of the bagel.

My coffee and bagel cost $3.50. And I feel like an jerk for even coming in here. But honestly, the cinnamon crunch bagel is really tasty, even with mostly unmelted butter on it. That’s how this works. Places invent one tolerable product and everything else is possible because of that. Outback Steakhouse has a deep fried onion appetizer that’s people seem to like. I used to go to McDonalds all the time just so I could order Chicken McNuggets so I could get the Buffalo dipping sauce on the side to dip them in. I’d dip my fries in the buffalo sauce, I’d dip my hamburger in the sauce. The So what’s the cinnamon crunch bagel cost? $1.39. The regular bagels are 99c. So I paid an extra 40 cents for the cinnamon crunch bagel? Wrong. I paid an extra $3.25 for the cinnamon crunch bagel because I wouldn’t even be in here. I’d be at home with a store-bought bag of bagels, properly cut in half, toasted to scalding, with a cup of coffee that cost me less than a dime to brew. So Panera Bread sucks because the reason I’m in the door, buying all the complementary goods to the cinnamon crunch bagel, costs more at the margin as well.

But I have a meeting here. I have a meeting at a restaurant, and I guess that’s a cultural thing, you want to have a meeting, you want to have people meet you at a time they’re not obligated to meet you, you do a nice thing for them. You meet in a pleasant place, like Panera Bread, so you can pay a huge price for generic classical music and so other people can feel like it’s a treat. What’s a treat about paying for terrible food? I make better food at my house. I’d have people to my house and make them a fine breakfast but it’s not the same. The culture won’t allow it. People think they’re getting something good but they’re not. They’re just so lazy to make something good themselves that they’re willing to pay for something terrible and they get so used to how terrible things are that they have something that’s slightly less terrible and they think it’s good.

It’s my own fault for being here. But I’m aware of my own stupid stuff, and here I am acknowledging my own stuff, and in doing so, allow myself to cast stones at others for doing stupid stuff, and not acknowledging it. I get it. Have some humility. Be honest for once.

* I’m trying to keep it clean here, but honestly, the words “terrible,” “jerk,” and “stuff” are just substitutes for the appropriate four-letter words that makes the most sense. There is impact in the use of foul language, but I live in fear because I’m surrounded by SWPLs.