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These are roughly rolled, extra long, dry italian cigars, a fairly inexpensive smoke running about 3.25 for a pack of 2. They are an excellent smoke for the price. Tasting of autumn, with some early spice and a smooth finish, mine had good ash and an even burn. I felt like an italian  cowboy with one of these in my mouth. Suave and bad ass.

I don't have much to say here, except that this cigar would best be paired with activity, such as driving or riding on the range. A nice sweet drink, perhaps some fresh juice would also go well.
Recently I picked up a tin of "All Nighter" scented Man's Face Stuff Moustache Wax.  I've been curious about different small-batch hand-made moustache waxes ever since I became an Oregon Wild Hair fan a while back.  This is a pretty good wax.  It has a different consistency than Oregon Wild Hair, and is much stiffer and more difficult to apply.  However, once applied the hold is firm and long-lasting.

One of the things I like most about Man's Face Stuff is the ease with which it washes out in the morning.  After a hot shower my moustache feels almost entirely free of wax.  Oregon Wild Hair, on the other hand, really likes to hang around.  However, I am not fond of the scent of the "All Nighter" variety.  It is supposed to smell of coffee and pipe smoke, but instead has a sort of unpleasant burnt coffee smell.  I was hoping it would have the odor of cappuccino and Black Cavendish.

Thanks to the firmness of this new wax, I have once more begun to curl my moustache.  Because my moustache is pretty unruly, I was unable to get much style out of it with a softer wax.  Expect ferocious curls and intimidating loops in my hirsute future.

Man's Face Stuff comes in 0.6oz tins and also in tubes.  There are a number of different scents available, as well as an unscented variety.  In retrospect, I think perhaps the "Gin and Tonic" would smell nicer under one's nose all day (it had a distinctly citrus note).  One can purchase this wax online, or at Winn Perry in Portland, Oregon.

Hoegaarden Rosée

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When I first spotted the small, pink can at the bottom of a beer cooler in Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica, I was reminded of the atrocity that is Sophia Coppola's horrendous champagne drink, Sophia.  I had the misfortune of trying that concoction one day during an impromptu spring picnic.  It was an overly sweet, overly fizzy disaster that I don't think either I or my partner could finish.  On closer inspection however this can turned out not to be the offender, but a new drink from Hoegaarden, innocently called Hoegarden Rosée.  It claims to be a witbier with framboise, or raspberry.  It can hardly be called a beer.

I found it utterly delicious none the less.  It pours a hazy rose, the cloudiness perhaps from the residual yeast, with lackluster head and minimal lacing.  The smell is floral and distinctively fruity, with maybe a hint of the banana esters you would expect from witbiers. Contrary to other disastrous fruit/beer pairings, (Pete's Strawberry Blonde, Blue Moon) this one had an authentic raspberry flavor.   More than a beer it taste like a light raspberry cider, a bit like Lindeman's Framboise, but lighter and more effervescent.  It leaves a crisp sweetness and you tongue actually tingles after that  first sip.  In a word, delightful.  It may be the first "chick drink" I think I have truly enjoyed.  At 3% alcohol, I believe it could use a little more heat.  Not a lot, maybe 4.5 or 5% and it would leave you with the appropriate burn to remind you that you are drinking a beer and not a soda.  On the whole, however it was very light, very fragrant, and refreshing.  I had it for breakfast and it provided a perfect accompaniment to my poached eggs and toast.

Clocking in at 1500, or about $3, for 25cL, the cost is extravagant.  If you think of similar fruity delights however like Lindeman's Frmboise, which runs about $6 a bottle, even in the states, it is not such a bad price.  I prefer to think of it as my special occasion go to drink.  Of course, as a wise man once said, "There is never an occasion too small to be celebrated with champagne.  Why, one could even say waking up in the morning could suffice!"  The same could be said of Hoegaarden Rosée.
alfa-wireless-adapter.jpgFinding an Internet connection on the road can be really tricky, but if you're near a city or town it shouldn't be completely impossible.  Sometimes you will find yourself just a little bit too far away from a signal to be comfortable.  My advice in this sort of situation is to find yourself a bigger antenna and more power.  Pictured to the right is a 1W wireless network adapter from Alfa, which should boost your broadcasting and receiving power enough to double or even triple your range.

As a caveat, know that the USB ports on a computer only output 500mW (that's half of 1W) of power, so it may not be possible to reap the full benefits of one of these guys.  I have heard that one can purchase special dual-plug USB cables that harness the power of two USB ports, but I've yet to try one.

Make sure to get ahold of the wireless adapter long before you leave home, because you'll want to test it as much as possible to make sure it works.  This can require quite a bit of fiddling and research, as the proper hardware drivers are not always available.  These guys are for those times when you really need a broadcasting boost to connect to that distant access point.

Another handy feature of the Alfa external adapters is that they have a replaceable antenna, so you can always swap it out with something more specialized, like a directional antenna.  Read more about antenna choice at RadioLabs.  Do not be afraid to experiment, but make sure to test out your equipment at home before you need it desperately abroad.

Pilsen: Another Light Beer

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pilsen-beer-cr.jpgWith a slightly richer color than Imperial, Pilsen is also drier and has perhaps a hint more hops.  It thus ranks as a superior beer to its yellow-labeled brother, but not by much.  And superior is such a strong word for a beer that barely manages to register as a pilsner.  In fact, it's a rotten insult to the style, but in a difficult beer-land like Costa Rica, one must cope with what's available.

In a cold glass, Pilsen holds a nice, thick head just like Bavaria Dark, and it keeps up a pretty good effervescence.  It also manages to pair pretty well with spicy foods.  In the photo you're seeing its fancy new label, which just debuted in the past couple of weeks.

The heat and humidity here make the beer drinkable, and its dryness makes it far more thirst-quenching than Imperial, which can be cloying and obnoxious as the last few sips in the bottom of the bottle warm up.  At 5.1% ABV it packs a heftier punch, too.  If we had half-stars, I would rate it half a star over Imperial, but on a five-star scale, it's still just a two-star beer.


ExOfficio Travel Underwear

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exofficio-briefs.jpgThis may seem like an odd thing to write about, but earlier this month I mentioned I'd be talking about some non-natural-fibers that I enjoyed traveling with.  I've had a couple pairs of ExOfficio Men's Briefs for almost three years now, and they have proven to be invaluable travel companions.  They are light, comfortable, and remarkably sturdy.  They are easy to clean, easy to wear regularly, and I am confident that a man could get by for several months with just three pair if he was diligent about washing them.

So the drill is that each morning when you shower, just take your briefs with you and wash them.  After the shower, wring them out, roll them up in a towel and ring them again, and then just hang them up to dry.  In a humid climate, they will still managed to be clean and dry later in the day.  In a dry climate, they will be ready in just a couple of hours.

These guys are entirely artificial: 94% nylon and 6% spandex.  They're odor-resistant, anti-microbial, and very stretchy.  You can also find them as briefs, and I'm pretty sure that ExOfficio makes a whole line of men's undergarments in the same material.  I can't say that I'd want to wear an undershirt made of this stuff, though.

I was curious about travel underwear when I first purchased these, and thought that the high price tag (usually over $15) was a bit excessive.  However, on this trip I've been traveling with both normal cotton underwear and my fancy space-age ExOfficio underwear, and the latter have outperformed in every way.  They dry faster, are remarkably easier to clean, and I'd love to have another pair.  The two pair I have, as I mentioned earlier, are three years old and still going strong; my normal underwear rarely lasts that long.


Imperial: A Very Yellow Beer

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imperial-on-beach.jpgThere is something romantic about having a cold beer in the tropics.  It was hard to put my finger on at first---the beer is not particularly good, most of it isn't particularly famous, and it's something beyond the "tropical paradise" cliché that folks seem so hung up on.  I finally got it:  the sweat on the bottle.  Leave a beer out in the humid heat for a minute here and its frosty surface is glistening with so much icy condensation that I feel like I'm in the middle of a Budweiser commercial.

This week's beer review is on Costa Rica's iconic brew, Imperial.  A domestic lager suitable for comparison with Budweiser or Coors, it is a pale, straw yellow with a thin white head and fine effervescence.  The flavor is not remarkable.  It tastes a little like corn syrup that's been fermented dry, with some sweetness and no detectable hops.  It is, however, almost as thirst-quenching as water, and at just 4.6% ABV, one can drink nearly as much of it.

If you are going to stick with a light beer down here, you might be able to do worse than Imperial.  In fact, check back next Friday and I'll see if I can find something for you.


Bavaria Premium Dark

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bavaria_premium_dunkel.jpgThe beer situation in the Limón province of Costa Rica is a dire one, as Vera wrote the other day.  I believe the two largest are Heineken and Cerveceria Costa Rica, the latter being a huge state-owned monolith that produces such classics as Imperial and Pilsen.  Today we are going to take a look at one of Cerveceria Costa Rica's premium beers, Bavaria Premium Dark.

This lager is, I believe, a German-style dunkel, and actually comes pretty close to matching the style.  It is rather light-bodied, but heavier than the other domestic offerings.  It pours a nice ruby-tinged chocolate brown, pleasingly translucent, with a good creamy head that actually sticks around for a while.  Of the Costa Rican beers I've tried so far, it actually has the most pleasing appearance and nose when poured into a glass.

Bavaria Premium Dark does carry a nice dose of roasted, dark malt flavor, though it lacks some of the pleasing German yeast flavors I usually look for in a dunkel.  And frankly, though I would quickly pick this beer over Spaten Dunkel, I cannot honestly say it will go in my list of top dark lagers.

If you find yourself in Costa Rica, you owe it to yourself to try this beer.  But otherwise, avoid it and head for an authentic German or German-style dunkel with heavier flavor and heartier body.


Beeradise Lost

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As a seasoned world traveler I know that different destinations offer their own plusses and minuses.  When I did my stint in Antarctica I was surprised by how many women bemoaned the loss of their favorite hair stylist or manicurist.  Or the fact that extreme cold makes nails break.  I however missed my guilty pleasure of hitting up Taco Bell after an evening of drinking.  But the plusses were palpable; beautiful vistas, the shock and adrenaline of negative fifty degrees, the camaraderie that comes with being stranded on the edge of the world.  Everyone had something they missed.  Everyone had something that they would miss when they left.  Which brings me to my current predicament, primarily, Beer.

The first time I stepped foot in Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, Costa Rica, I felt a liberating exhilaration.  The lazy pace of the people, the cool ocean breeze, the smell of jerked chicken, combined with being able to go topless on the pristine beaches left me feeling like I had finally found my home.  Indeed, I tried to make it my home, spent a year and a half in a tent on the beach until I had to leave due to extensive drug use.  When I arrived home in Medford, Oregon, my father took one look at my 90 pound body with scars and bug bites and for the first time, broke down and cried.  Coke is hell of a drug:  something I will write in a later post.  The plus side is that I seem to have developed an allergy to it, and even the sight of it leaves me nauseous.  That aside, I have developed another addiction that has put a slight dampener on my home town.  Again, Beer.

I fully blame my beloved boyfriend for my current dilemma.  I should have known, I met him in a beer store:  an oddly erudite and well dressed man with a curly handlebar moustache and a boyish smile.  I was a beer punk.  I wanted it cheap and preferably in a can I could crush on my forehead afterwards.  He introduced me to a line of high alcohol content beer, which was a plus for me because why drink if not to get drunk?  I slowly started discovering that I was put off more and more by the prospect of PBR.   When we moved in together in May of last year and the idea of moving to Costa Rica was raised one of the first questions he pressed was "What about beer?"  I was incensed!  How could he pose such a frivolous question when the purpose of life, we had both agreed, was to travel the world!  Beer, shmeer! I wanted to go back to Costa Rica and see it through sober eyes (coke sober, that is).  Now, after a year of him exposing me to the greatest beers in the world, I know what he meant.  Jerk.  If it were not for him I would not be sitting here craving an IPA or Stout, or Rogue's delicious Chipotle Ale.  If it was not for him I could sit with my ignorant bliss on the shore with an Imperial happily in hand.  Now I feel like I am forced to drink piss.  Ahhh, Beer.

We have found some gems, but all at ridiculously high prices.  Lindeman's Framboise is here, along with Duvel, Leffe, and Guiness Export Stout, a really delicious version of the usual we buy in the States.  The lack of taps is disappointing too, as an Imperial from the keg has got to elevate its flavor somewhat.  I haven't figured out the mailing system yet but as soon as I do, I fully expect my friends to send us some Dogfish Head, or even Nikasi, I need my hops!  So while loyal reader may be jealous of our stint in Costa Rica, know at least part of me is jealous of your delicious beer selection.  Enjoy one for me.  Beer.
To Whom it May Concern,

I am corresponding today to voice my extreme displeasure with respect to a recent experience at one of your fine dining establishments.

Only a few short weeks ago my offices dispatched a missive to your company in which I praised the mediocre perfection that is the Egg McMuffin, despite my better sensibilities. Those better sensibilities have finally won out: I withdraw my praise entirely.

I've been to McDonald's many times. As a child, I looked forward to McNuggets, McRibs, the quarter-pounder with cheese; when I traveled, it was McPork, McBier, "Oriental" McNuggets, and so on. Above all, though, I always had strong feelings for the Egg McMuffin.

Growing up, I lost my taste for your over-engineered food products and grew both weary and wary of your company. At last, I reached a point where I didn't like your food, or your ideology... but, I still loved your Egg McMuffin. It was like a dim-witted date who's kind of lousy at everything: pedestrian to the point of boring, inept, unattractive, generally unlikable, but sometimes just what the doctor ordered anyway. I couldn't help myself.

The superficial goodness of the Egg McMuffin sandwich is the product of careful balance between several otherwise utterly unappetizing components. It's a dance of opposites, a poem of contradiction, a still life that doesn't make any sense but is pretty anyway. It has an unholy, yet still divine synergy.

Just in review, let's consider the essentials involved in a nearly-perfect Egg McMuffin:

        1) Mealy, yet slightly toasted and lightly steamed preservative-laden
        English muffin with butter flavoring (very preferably with a few charry bits);

        2) Sickly-sweet mostly-melted American cheese product;

        3) Thin rind-on piece of flavor-treated Canadian bacon that
        invites comparisons to shoe leather;

        4) Puck-like, overcooked factory-farmed chicken egg, slightly
        greasy, under-seasoned;

        5) Butterlicious "compound";

Change any of these elements, though, and instead of inexplicable yet sublime Americana perfection, one has a horror dreadful: a Thing indicative of corporate conditioning, low expectations, unimaginative blandness, and such spirit-crushing soullessness that its abyssal depths would be so shallowly plumbed in evoking a expletive miasm that I won't bother. In short, you get something so unspeakably terrible that surely its likes could only be described in that dread tome of Abdul Alhazred, the "Necronomicon"-- if even he could have done it justice.

I'm afraid that's exactly what happened to me on my last visit to your (for tact's sake rather than the lack of a better word) "outlet". Had I known how my life would change as a result of that experience, I'd have sequestered myself in a locked cellar, chewed multiple tablets of rat poison, and chased everything down with cheap peach schnapps for as long as it took; this would have been vastly preferable to what actually happened.

Oh, sure, it came in a wrapper clearly labeled "Egg McMuffin", yet what horror lurked inside! The same stale, soggy-yet-crunchy English muffin, the same glue-like cheese product,  the same unnaturally perfect disc of tough, chemical-ridden ham-- yet, the egg! Oh, dear god, the egg! It was hideous! Some sort of wet, flavorless, folded skin of what might have once-- in the Dark Ages-- have hoped to become a scrambled egg! And then, there was the smell.

Did my senses deceive me? No. They were working overtime to warn me away from danger. Fighting all my instincts, telling myself "it will be okay", I took a bite-- and fell from the guilty height of genuine anticipation into a chasm of near-suicidal depression in just one instant.

It was as if the absence of the egg puck had somehow damaged the Ether itself, and the Universe's equilibrium at the location of the McMuffin had created a ley-point of cosmic retribution for my culinary sin.

From that first unfortunate taste, my hopefulness turned into terror. The egg unfurled deeply and forcefully into my mouth, violating my guts like the tentacles of a slime-dwelling Deep One, as the McMuffin's uglier side come out: it turned mean and aggressive. Like Roberto Duran facing down a hapless chump, the sandwich was going to slam me to the canvas for sure-- but not before it had also mocked, molested, punished, and humiliated me so badly that I could never face it again.

Instead of playing its manufactured-yet-silky richness against the too-firm, yet also erotically hot, slick, slightly-yielding egg, and a drug-like hit of ham flavoring all texturally tempered with an absorbing, vaguely toothsome breadishness, that insipid cheese product worked itself into my mouth like stale hide glue. My tender palette was brutally scraped with harsh chunks of scratchy old muffin, the spaces between my teeth spewed with a gum-scalding, pasty mortar of factory-farmed pig parts and hot grease, leaving behind only the aftertaste of Capitalism gone wrong.

In place of what I'd expected-- firm, resilient chewing pleasure followed by the vigorous satisfaction of swallowing warm McMuffin perfection, the scalding, soppy, gummy mess I barely could force down left me feeling used and guilty for ever allowing myself to get hungry enough to let the Golden Arches dupe me again. It was wretched.

Nothing can ever erase that day, McDonald's, and nothing can convince me to take back the Egg McMuffin and forgive the sort of pain and especially betrayal this bilious experience has made me feel. I can't understand what I ever saw in that sorry excuse for an egg sandwich, or in the chillingly over-pleasant décor of your yellowed cafeterias to begin with.

This has made me reconsider a lot. I can't take things back, but I can move on. I am explaining why I'm never returning, in the hope that maybe there's someone at your company who might listen and understand what I've gone through. I'd grimace, but your marketing department's already thought of that.

If life's too damn short to deal with the King, it's too short to spend dining with a Clown.


_Jesse Williamson ;-};

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