Becoming an Expert in Cigar Smoking: Your Comprehensive Guide

cigar smoking man

The process of preparing, smoking, and all the associated elements of a cigar constitute a ritual. Many cigar enthusiasts, myself included, find solace and relaxation in this ritual. Achieving the ideal cut, a flawless light, and a satisfying draw requires practice, but the journey is as rewarding as the destination.

The Cigar

The world boasts a diverse array of cigars, varying in shapes and sizes. In this discussion, the focus will be on premium cigars, particularly those that are handmade. While machine-made cigars are an option, it’s akin to choosing your dad’s favorite light beer over a craft small-batch IPA.


The outer layer of the cigar, known as the wrapper, is what you see, and it often gives a hint of the cigar’s smoking characteristics. While color isn’t always a decisive factor, the type of wrapper leaf can be a preference, especially for novice smokers.

  • For a light and mild experience, look for wrappers like Connecticut, Sungrown, or those with shade or creme in the name.
  • If you prefer middle-of-the-road and medium-bodied cigars, consider options like Habano, Colorado, Claro, or San Andres.
  • For a heavy, full-bodied experience, opt for cigars with a dark, almost black wrapper, bearing names such as Maduro, Oscuro, or Corojo.

Sizes & Shapes

Cigars are gauged by their widths and lengths (typically in inches) and are often associated with a vitola, which is the general term for the size and shape of the cigar. As you gain more experience, you’ll discover your preferred size for different occasions.

A good starting size is the Robusto, a medium to small cigar ideal for 1-2 hour smokes. A typical Robusto is around five inches long with a ring gauge size of 50. Another well-known vitola is the Churchill, named after the famed British Prime Minister. Churchills are usually about seven inches long with a ring gauge of around 56, suitable for longer smokes lasting 2-4 hours. Read more about the Churchill here.

Beyond the traditional cylindrical cigar shape, there are varieties that provide a different mouth-feel or handheld experience. Popular alternative shapes include box-pressed, torpedo, and pyramid.

The Cut

The majority of handmade cigars are equipped with a cap at the end, requiring removal or cutting before smoking. The cap serves multiple purposes, such as preserving the cigar’s structural integrity during handling and preventing the unraveling of the wrapper leaf. To fully savor a quality cigar, the end must be modified to facilitate proper airflow. There are various methods to achieve this adjustment.

parts of a cigar
Parts of a cigar
  • Straight cut
    Utilizing specialized cigar scissors or a straight cutter involves slicing the cap with a single moving blade. In a pinch, a knife can also be used to remove the end of the cigar. The straight cut is the simplest type of cut.
  • Wedge or “V” cut
    Inserting a V-shaped sharp blade through the side of the cigar forms a wedge-shaped cutout, allowing air to be drawn in. This cut is unusual or unique, typically chosen for a change of pace or when encountering significant draw issues as it removes a substantial portion of the cigar.
  • Punch
    Using a circular metal piece, you can punch a hole into the cap, similar to perforating a piece of paper. This method is a suitable choice for cigars with larger ring gauges or those that are box-pressed.
  • Guillotine
    Like the straight cut, a guillotine is a type of cutter where two blades converge to make a clean slice. It is the most efficient and commonly used method for cutting a cigar before smoking.
  • Peel
    Depending on the cigar and the circumstances, it’s possible to remove the cap by peeling the end of the cigar and exposing the innards. This method is preferred when a cutter isn’t available or if you wish to maintain a more natural approach.

Regardless of the method you select to begin your cigar, remember a couple of key points. On the top of the cigar, you can observe the line where the cap overlaps the wrapper. Be sure not to remove more than below that line. Cutting a cigar too low may result in the wrapper unraveling, leading to problems with the draw and structural integrity of the cigar.

The Light

Following the cut, the next step is lighting. This essential process ignites the tobacco leaves, allowing the smoke to be drawn through the cigar for enjoyment. While the proper light is part of the ritual, it’s crucial to start the burn correctly. A well-executed light ensures the cigar burns evenly and can be fully appreciated. There are three commonly accepted methods for lighting a cigar, recommended for proper cigar etiquette.

  • Butane torch
    A butane-powered torch lighter, designed for clean burning, produces optimal heat, eliminating the need to hold a flame to the foot of the cigar for an extended period. These butane torches are widely preferred for lighting cigars, as they avoid fuel taste and deliver a high temperature for an efficient light.
  • Match
    In certain situations, you might resort to using matches. Although not the most efficient method for lighting a cigar, it serves as a viable option when a torch is unavailable. Be ready to use nearly a whole book of matches when smoking a cigar from start to finish, especially outdoors. Keep in mind that matches are not ideal in windy conditions, so plan accordingly.
  • Cedar spills
    Cedar sheets, occasionally provided with cigars, offer a traditional method for lighting. Transform the sheet into small strips, ignite one end with a lighter or match, and use the lit cedar piece to light your cigar. This elegant approach not only imparts a subtle cedar flavor but also adds a touch of sophistication. If executed correctly, it enhances the experience and adds a cool factor to your cigar ritual.

If you choose to use a conventional (Bic) lighter for lighting your cigar, ensure it operates on butane fuel and be mindful of the prolonged ignition times. Using a Zippo lighter with Zippo lighter fluid is not advisable, as it imparts a disagreeable taste to your entire cigar and may pose additional health risks. Alternatively, you can purchase a butane torch insert for your preferred Zippo lighter, providing a proper solution for cigar lighting while educating your friends on the suitable fuels.

The Smoke

Now that you’ve successfully prepared and lit your cigar, let me share some valuable tips to enhance your smoking experience and derive the utmost pleasure from your well-cut and lit cigar.

  • Go slow
    Take your time; this isn’t a quick five-minute smoke break with a Pall Mall in the cold. A cigar is meant to be savored for hours (depending on its size), offering a leisurely and paced experience. Excessive puffing and drawing too much heat into the body of the cigar can make it uncomfortably hot in your mouth and, more importantly, compromise the carefully crafted flavors intended by the cigar maker. Relax, pace yourself, and allow the cigar to unfold its nuances gradually.
  • Don’t inhale
    Unlike with cigarettes, it’s crucial to take it slow and avoid inhaling cigar smoke into your lungs. The tobacco in cigars provides a more intense experience and can make you feel unwell, especially if you’re not accustomed to it. Cigar smoking is focused on the mouthfeel and taste, emphasizing the sensory aspects rather than seeking a rapid nicotine fix in your bloodstream. Enjoy the rich flavors without the need to inhale deeply.
  • Enjoy
    Above all, relish the cigar and appreciate the diverse flavors and notes revealed during the burn. It’s an excellent means of relaxation, whether in solitude, good company, or paired with a drink. For a heightened smoking experience, consider trying a retrohale.
    If you ever feel dizzy or start coughing, take a break. Combating nicotine sickness can be aided by consuming sugar, either through eating or drinking. Prioritize your well-being and enjoy your cigar responsibly.

The End

The amount you choose to smoke is a personal preference, but a good guideline is to enjoy the cigar down to at least the band. Removing the band can be tricky, as excess glue may cause tearing and damage to the wrapper. Smoking the cigar down to the band allows the heat to melt the glue, making it easier to gently remove the band without harming the wrapper. Once removed, feel free to continue smoking until you’ve finished.

After completing your cigar, simply let it sit. Extinguishing a cigar prematurely creates a mess and an unpleasant smell. The cigar will naturally go out within 15 minutes and be cool to the touch. Once cool, dispose of it properly. Like cigarette butts, cigar remnants can be unpleasant, so part of being a responsible cigar smoker is cleaning up after yourself.

Dos and Don’ts

  • Do use butane to toast and light your cigar
  • Do offer a friend or acquaintance a spare cigar
  • Do make your torch lighter available for others to use
  • Do cleanup after yourself by removing ash or burnt cigars properly
  • Do support your local brick and mortar cigar store
  • Do puff a cigar nice and slow
  • Do wait at least 15 minutes between cigars

  • Don’t lick/moisten your cigar cap before cutting with a friends or shop cutter, save that for your own
  • Don’t snuff out your cigar in the ashtray or on the ground
  • Don’t inhale the smoke into your lungs, you’ll have a bad time
  • Don’t bring your own cigars to a cigar lounge, buy from the shop
  • Don’t offer or buy cigars for kids under 21
  • Don’t cut the cigar too far down
  • Don’t rush through smoking a cigar, take it slow

The Why

Many ask, “Why cigars?” Some recoil at the notion of smoking, given its negative reputation and health concerns. However, for me and many enthusiasts, it’s a source of great enjoyment. I liken it to having a beer after work—a moment to unwind and relax. Smoking a cigar, for me, is a ritual that commands my attention during the session. Despite the winter limiting my cigar enjoyment to one or two a month, I compensate during the warmer months. It’s not just a hobby; it’s a passion that extends to the thrill of hunting, collecting, and curating my cigar collection. Call it a collector’s disposition, not an illness.

This simple guide is my attempt to share the joy of cigar smoking with newcomers and those curious about the hobby. I hope it serves as a helpful introduction for anyone looking to unlock the world of cigars.

Head on over to BeardStix and see what I’ve been smoking lately.

The Best Of: 2023

In 2023, the year was characterized by conflict, upheaval, and the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite these challenges, I have compiled a list of my best and favorite things from this year as a way to shift focus. While I typically indulge in watching numerous movies, the circumstances of this year prevented me from viewing several significant films that I had hoped to experience.

Best Movie
What I thought was going to be a childish movie for kids, actually appealed to some of my comedic senses. Out of all the movies I watched in 2023, it was the most memorable and one I rated the highest. I hope to see more films this winter and have a better pick for next year. This live-action film managed to blend humor, adventure, and valuable life lessons seamlessly. The cinematography was visually stunning, and the acting was top-notch, making it an enjoyable experience for viewers of all ages. The story was heartwarming and had a strong message about the power of friendship and believing in oneself, which left a lasting impact. Barbie exceeded my expectations and proved to be a delightful surprise.
Runners-up: Asteroid City; Knock at the Cabin

Best TV Show
The Bear
The Bear, available on Hulu, has truly captured the hearts of many viewers, and with the second season released this year, the excitement has only grown. This captivating restaurant drama/comedy effortlessly blends elements of anxiety, emotion, and heartwarming moments, making it a truly binge-worthy experience. Whether you’re a fan of the culinary world or simply enjoy immersive storytelling, The Bear is a must-watch. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to dive into the series and witness the enthralling narrative unfold, leaving you eagerly anticipating each new episode.
Runners-up: Succession (MAX); Beef (Netflix)

Best Music Album
The Elovators – Endless Summer
The Elovators’ album “Endless Summer” has become an integral part of my music collection. Their unique blend of reggae and rock creates a captivating sound that has resonated with me. From the moment I discovered the band, I found myself eagerly anticipating the release of this album, and it did not disappoint. The tracks quickly became the soundtrack of my summer, and even now, I find myself turning to these songs on a daily basis. Their music has a way of transporting me to a laid-back state of mind, filled with sunny vibes and carefree moments. I was fortunate enough to attend their live performance in November, and it was an experience to remember. The energy and passion they bring to the stage is just as powerful and captivating as their studio recordings. It’s evident that The Elovators pour their hearts into their music, and this authenticity shines through in every note. The atmosphere at the concert was electric, with fans swaying to the rhythm and singing along to every word. It was a testament to the band’s ability to connect with their audience and create an unforgettable music experience.
Runners-up: Morgan Wallen – One Thing at a Time; mansionz – mansionz 2

Best Song
Morgan Wallen – Everything I love
When it comes to music, the beauty lies in its ability to transcend boundaries and connect with people from all walks of life. Morgan Wallen’s “Everything I Love” achieves just that with its soulful blend of throwback country and Americana influences. This captivating song is not only a breath of fresh air for the genre but also a testament to Wallen’s versatility as an artist. As the world embraced the allure of Americana music, Wallen’s interpretation of this genre brought a new dimension to his artistry, earning accolades from fans and critics alike. His ability to infuse classic country elements with modern sensibilities resonated deeply, making “Everything I Love” a standout in his discography.
Runners-up: Passafire – Offer; Rome & Duddy – Coast of Mexico

Best Video Game
Hogwarts Legacy
While I’m not a huge Harry Potter fan, I do like the Wizarding World crafted around the stories of the character. I was hesitant at first about an open-world game set in this universe, but after seeing some reviews upon the launch, I felt I needed to experience it. A well-crafted RPG game, Hogwarts Legacy excels with the story and chance encounters in the world. I was deeply immersed in this game, having spent well over 40 hours completing the story and side missions. The attention to detail in bringing the magical world to life, the intricate storyline, and the freedom to explore Hogwarts and its surroundings truly captivated me. The game mechanics, spell-casting, and the variety of magical creatures added a layer of complexity that kept me engaged throughout. Not many games can capture my attention and dedication these days like Hogwarts Legacy, and I eagerly look forward to any future expansions or sequels that further delve into the enchanting universe of Harry Potter.
Runners-up: Starfield (Xbox); Super Mario Bros. Wonder (Switch)

Best Mobile Game
NYT Games
For some reason, this year I started getting into crossword puzzles, and I thought, what better way to test my ability than to do the New York Times crosswords. I soon discovered that the NYT had an iOS app that included their crosswords, Wordle, and other word and letter games. I quickly subscribed to their service and have been playing daily for about 6 months. It’s been such a rewarding experience diving into these puzzles and word games. The New York Times crosswords are known for their clever, engaging clues and diverse range of themes, which always keep me on my toes. I’ve found that solving these puzzles not only sharpens my vocabulary and problem-solving skills but also provides a great mental workout. The Wordle game, in particular, has become a favorite quick challenge for me to tackle each day. The feeling of satisfaction when I fill in the final word is truly unparalleled. Overall, my journey with the NYT Games has been an enriching and enjoyable one, and I look forward to many more months of fun and mental stimulation.
Runners-up: Knotwords; finity.

Best iOS App
If you’re a cinephile or simply enjoy keeping track of your favorite movies and TV shows, look no further than Callsheet, the standout iOS app of the year. Created with the intention of replacing the cumbersome IMDB app, Callsheet provides a seamless experience for accessing movie and TV show details without the clutter of ads and promotions. Its sleek design, user-friendly interface, and superior features make it a refreshing addition to the app world. One of the most noteworthy aspects of Callsheet is its innovative feature that allows you to view the age of the actors during the filming of the specific movie or TV show you’re exploring. Gone are the days of wondering, “How old was she in this?” as Callsheet empowers you to effortlessly obtain this information within a matter of seconds, directly from your phone. This thoughtful addition enhances the viewing experience, bringing a new level of insight and appreciation to your favorite entertainment.
Runners-up: Threads; Sports Alerts

Best Podcast
Accidental Tech Podcast
As the year unfolds, the Accidental Tech Podcast (ATP) continues to hold the top spot as my favorite podcast. Despite not being a new addition to the podcast world, ATP has managed to maintain its relevance and captivate audiences with its compelling content. The trio of hosts delves into an array of technology topics, spanning from discussions on Apple’s latest innovations to the complexities of AI and the ever-evolving landscape of gaming. Not only does ATP cater to tech enthusiasts, but it also incorporates lively discussions on automotive technology, stemming from the hosts’ roots in a car-oriented podcast known as Neutral. This unique blend injects an appealing dynamic into the podcast, ensuring that every episode is a delightful fusion of tech insights and entertaining car talk. For me, tuning in to ATP each week has become a ritual, a source of not only staying updated with the latest tech developments but also immersing myself in the amiable banter and camaraderie shared among the three seasoned hosts. Their chemistry and camaraderie create a warm and welcoming atmosphere that keeps me eagerly anticipating each new episode.
Runners-up: Reconcilable Differences; The Backmarkers

Best New Tech Product
Sony PS VR2
As my first foray into virtual reality (VR), the PS VR2 certainly wowed me with all of its immersive features and technology. While the games to support the hardware have been a little lackluster, I hope it gets better as time goes one. Ready my full review of this cool new tech product here.
Runners-up: TP-Link Deco; Nest Cam Spotlight

Best New Apple Product
Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max
The latest flagship iPhone is proving to be the best yet with the additions of USB-C and a titanium build. Read my full review of this amazing product here.
Runners-up: Apple Watch Ultra 2; MacBook Pro M3

Links and sources:

Barbie Games
Asteroid City
Knock At The Cabin
The Bear
Beef Alerts
The Elovators – Endless Summer Tech Podcast
Morgan Wallen – One Thing At A Time Differences
mansionz – mansionz 2 Backmarkers
Morgan Wallen – Everything I Love PS VR2
Passafire – Offer Deco
Rome & Duddy – Coast of Mexico Cam Floodlight
Hogwarts Legacy iPhone 15 Pro Max
Starfield Watch Ultra 2
Super Mario Bros. Wonderhttps://supermariobroswonder.nintendo.comMacBook Pro M3

From Beer to Cheese Sticks: Exploring the Weird and Wonderful World of Collecting


I am driven by a strong desire to collect various items, including virtual collections. Although no research has been conducted in this field, I would like to share my experiences with this compulsive behavior.

I hesitate to call it “collector’s syndrome” since that term implies a more severe form of hoarding or personal attachment to physical objects. My tendency is to collect items without any clear purpose, accumulating as much as possible.


  • Collect as much as possible of a certain type of item, digital good, or service.
  • Acquire pieces of a collection that I will never actually use.
  • Try to complete a known collection if it exists.
  • Make lists that can show progress or collection completion.


There are numerous examples, past and present, that can easily define my collection tendency. However, to maintain some privacy and brevity, I will detail only a few.

YETI Coolers products are probably the most expensive compulsion I have. The company releases new limited-edition colors of the same products seasonally, which creates demand. I’m a sucker for this, and when there’s a new color (or even a new product) released, I’m compelled to buy one. I have amassed quite the collection of YETI products, and while some may argue, I do use most of them.

Digital video games are a collection that is easy to get out of hand because there is no physical storage required. When you purchase a digital video game from a platform like Playstation, Xbox, or Steam, the purchase lives in your account, and you don’t necessarily need to download or install the game. In theory, one can buy every video game available and never play or install a single one. Much like YETI products, when a new video game is announced or released, I buy into the hype and yearn for it. I add it to a wishlist to monitor if the price decreases. When a title goes on sale, I usually buy it. To my credit, I rarely pay full price ($70!) for new video games and wait until they receive a deep discount before pulling the trigger. The advent of video game subscription services like Xbox Game Pass and Sony Playstation Plus Extra has eased the spending on individual video games as I now have access to hundreds of games through the subscription. This has shifted some of my collection on this front to wanting to install and play every game that comes to one of these services. This only wastes my time, so I consider it a win.

Movies and music used to be a big problem and time sink for me. Acquiring all the latest movies or albums used to take a lot of my time and money. Collecting DVDs/BDs and CDs really scratched my itch when it came to displaying them alphabetically and being able to see my collection every day. I can remember at least 10 times in my past where I purchased a DVD or Blu-Ray that I never opened or watched. I just wanted to have it in my collection. Streaming services and other digital distribution methods have really disrupted this for me, in a good way. Now, I have extended this collecting to video streaming services where I want to be able to watch anything whenever I want. Month-to-month subscriptions thankfully allow me to do that. I can subscribe to Peacock, watch Parks and Recreation, then cancel when I’m done. They’re hoping I don’t cancel to avoid churn, though. Most people just subscribe and forget, and these companies make money on the gym membership business model.

From Beer to Cheese Sticks

A few other examples of my collecting that involve more organizing than obsessive buying include cigars, beer, and cheese sticks. As a beginner cigar aficionado, I like to log the cigars I have tried and whether or not I enjoyed them. I keep a public list of the cigars I have on hand. Similarly, when I drink beer casually, I log it in a way that allows me to look back at statistics, see if I have tried a beer before, and share it with my friends. The app Untappd is great for this, and to date, I have checked in over 1200 beers! Unfortunately, an app like Untappd does not yet exist to track cheese stick ratings. Yes, you read that right: cheese sticks, such as those filled with mozzarella or provolone cheese. I consider myself not only a beer snob but also a cheese stick snob. So when I go to a new place that has them on the menu, I log them and add them to my public database for other cheese stick lovers to enjoy.

It’s not hoarding when you’re just collecting information. Sometimes, I enjoy making spreadsheets, and finding new data to add to Excel is always an adventure. Maybe someone else out there shares my “problem,” or perhaps not. What do you think?

Apple Watch: A Short History

It’s interesting to look back at the Apple Watch since it’s release in late-April of 2015. When it was first introduced it was immediately criticized for how thick of a device it is. Six revisions later, the original Apple Watch is still the thinnest, even during the time when Apple was trying to get the thinnest and lightest devices around. Now, they’ve reversed their course and are seeing benefits by making thicker and heavier devices.

With the inclusion of cellular, watches got heavier but it’s interesting to see how much they change series to series.

The Series 2, Apple’s second generation1, is the thickest watch to date. That continued for another generation until the redesign on Series 4. The Series 7 is the heaviest watch generation and second thickest.

Will Apple ever give us a thinner watch case, or is 10.4mm the desired depth that they can design around? For comparison, a Rolex Submariner has a 12mm case. Definitely something to take note of as we wait for Series 8.

Check out my full Apple Watch Series 7 review

Grom Adventures Volume 1

A few months ago I bought a mini motorcycle, Honda Grom 125.
Recently, I acquired a GoPro camera.
This is my first adventure that I’m sharing with you all.

Introducing: Double B Garage

Double B Garage Logo

For some time now I’ve wanted to get into video content that can help people with the same interests as me.

I’ve created the YouTube channel Double B Garage to share some of my experiences with vehicles. Wether it be repair, mods, or reviews, I feel my content will be valuable to someone.

So far I’ve published two videos, with more to come. Check them out below:

YETI cooler storage in Jeep Wrangler
Wireless CarPlay in Jeep Wrangler

About Last Saturday Night…

This past Saturday night my wife and I went out with some friends for a low key evening in Pittsburgh’s Strip District. The night started off just like any other Saturday but where it went was something out of a movie, like The Hangover. I’m writing about this to share the story but also for my personal memory as the further we get from the night, the less I will remember. Also, because I did not get permission from anyone, I will be changing all the names as to not identify people.

My friend Heather and I were texting back and forth about hanging out on Saturday and never really decided on anything. After her husband Chris got home from work she mentioned about having a herf at a local cigar lounge. Most of them in the area, including a new local spot nearby, close in the early evening. Heather recommended a fancy spot in the Strip District called Cioppino which is a restaurant with a Gatsby-style cigar lounge in the back. We decided on a time and had to change because this place has an unspoken business casual dress code. I packed up my own cigars and accessories before we left, I brought two different sticks because I wasn’t sure what I would be in the mood for later that evening. We left the house around 8:00pm, said goodbye to the dogs, and expected to be back within a couple hours.

When my wife and I arrived in the Strip District we were expecting to have to valet the car, but to our surprise there was a parking garage directly above the restaurant. We found a spot on the second floor right near the stairs we needed to descend to get to Cioppino. It was a warmer night than a usual late January evening so I decided to leave my coat in the car which would save it from cigar stench. At the bottom of the stairs we had to brave the cold wind for a moment to walk around to the entrance of the restaurant. When we walked inside we were immediately hit with the smell of fresh seafood and I remember thinking, “There’s a cigar lounge in here?”. I quickly greeted the host mentioning we were meeting friends but we weren’t sure where the cigar bar was. He replied eagerly, “Let me show you since most people get lost on the way, follow me”. We literally walked around the corner and straight through a door labeled “No smoking beyond this point”. I wasn’t sure how anyone would get lost on that treacherous journey. Walking in we were hit with the unmistakable aroma of cigars burning, but pleasantly surprised at how nice and welcoming the lounge was. After finding a table for four we sat down and ordered two diet Cuba Libre drinks and waited for our friends.

Heather and Chris arrived a few moments later and we start to enjoy our chosen stogies for the night. I went with a “M by Macanudo” which is a Columbian coffee infused cigar with an Indonesian Bezuki wrapper. This was very smooth and enjoyable. As I sipped my drink and smoked my cigar we all traded pleasantries and discussed how our respective jobs were going. Directly behind us was a couple who were obvious cigar newbies. They ordered two expensive large cigars and I thought to myself “Good, I’m glad they’re jumping right into it”. Later on, Chris told me to carefully look behind me and check out that same couple. As I glanced over my shoulder I immediately noticed the problem. Sometimes cigar manufacturers include a thin wrapper around the outer leaf made out of cedar. This is intended to protect the outer leaf as well as maintain the bouquet of tobacco aromas. Normally, you use this cedar wrapper to light your cigar or remove and discard. The couple behind us smoked their entire cigar with the cedar wrapper attached. That had to have been a bad experience. The cedar taste must not have deterred them because after they finished those they went back for two more.

About an hour and a half passed and I decided I was going to smoke my other cigar before the lounge closed up shop. At the table adjacent to us were two men having a good time but were clearly from out of town. One of the guys saw Chris’ travel humidor and began to engage him in cigar talk. They shared what they had with them and opted to trade each other cigars. Both Chris and this stranger are very outgoing and introduced everyone to each other. We all began talking about work, travel, and cigars. The two guys, Shawn and Brad, were naming all the places they’ve been and where to get the best cigars. Curious, my wife asked Shawn what they did for a living since they got to travel for work so often. Shawn responded, “well… you guys don’t seem like terrorists so we can tell you, we’re Federal Air Marshals”. We all gasped in shock because we weren’t expecting that as an answer. I’m not normally one to engage in meaningless conversations with strangers, but I remember thinking “Ok, these guys are actually interesting”.

The six of us probably chatted for an hour about cigars, whiskey, and air travel. Stephanie was in a daring mood so she was trying a new flavor of Jameson Irish Whiskey she hadn’t tried before. After that, Shawn ordered her a glass of some fancier, more expensive, Jameson for her to try. While it was nice of him, I felt like he may have been trying to hit on her. Shawn and Brad were wondering where they should go next since the night was still young. Chris half-jokingly said they should go to a gentleman’s club right up street. Shawn seemed all for it, but since it was late the four of us were going to turn in for the evening.

After more conversation and planning Chris offered to drive our two new friends to the gentleman’s club since they didn’t have a car. Chris also happened to know someone who worked in the club that would allow us to get in for free instead of paying the steep cover charge. Feeling a bit adventurous we all agreed to go along and see where this would end up. Personally, I love to say “yes” to things as much as possible, within reason, and that’s how situations like these arise. We quickly paid the bill, paid for parking, and exited the garage to head down the street. Upon arriving at Cheerleaders gentleman’s club they had mandatory valet parking for $8.00. Because I had no cash, I had to get my wife to pay for it and she brought me cash and we headed inside. We proceeded through the metal detectors and past the cashier, thanks to Chris’ friend, into the club. I went to get some change for the large bills of cash we had and by the time I turned around, Chris was sitting in a very large VIP area. I walked over and said, “is this for us?” He replied, “Hell yeah this is for us!”

This is when the night quickly escalated. Three of us ordered more diet Cuba Libre drinks and I headed to the restroom. Upon my return, instead of a glass of Captain Morgan and Diet Coke on the table I found an entire bottle of Captain Morgan. Shawn had purchased this bottle service for us. We were astonished and extremely grateful. Shawn and Brad continued to drinks glasses of Jameson whiskey, piggybacking on the ones they had at the cigar lounge. A nice middle-aged women came to our VIP area and offered neck massages for about $20. Earlier that morning I attended a yoga class so my shoulders were quite sore. Chris went first and gave his recommendation on the massage so I signed up to be next. It was a pretty good neck massage but it kind of creeped me out being massaged in a gentleman’s club VIP booth. After the massage we toasted to meeting new friends and continued to work on that bottle of Captain Morgan. If you have ever been around people that are drinking, it seems all they want to do is have you drink more with them. As the designated driver for my wife and I, I was making sure I wasn’t drinking too much. To not be a party pooper, I would drip a few drops of rum into my glass and fill it the rest of the way up with Coke. This worked most of the time until one of the drunken guys would make a drink for me. I must have had seven or eight glasses of Diet Coke that night.

If you ever been to a gentleman’s club or a strip club you may have experienced the sales tactics of the women who work the floor. They will continually come up to you and ask for drinks, dances, or whatever, just to make some money. I appreciate their hustle, but I will not be fooled into spending money on them. One young girl stopped by our area and started giving Brad the sales pitches. He wasn’t drunk enough to fall for it and she quickly left. Chris and I were the only sober ones in our six person crew so we commented about how crazy it was that we ended up here. Shawn would periodically make his way around the club checking out the girls, giving tips, and buying drinks. Meanwhile the four of us pretty much stayed in our VIP area, standing around drinking except for the several trips to the restrooms. Later the same girl who was working on Brad came back and must have sweet talked him just enough for him to agree to go in the back with her. Now I’ve been to a few bachelor parties and know what goes on back there (nothing illegal), how much it costs, and how long it takes. Brad quickly came back within two or three minutes. I knew something was wrong when I saw him walking back and then I saw his face. He couldn’t really speak clearly, whether he was in shock or just intoxicated, but all I really got out of him when I asked what happened was, “I felt bad for her, she’s so young, I don’t know, I just felt bad for her”. At this point I urged everyone to cut him off from drinking but this fell on deaf ears of his travel companion. The Jameson shots kept coming out in succession.

In the booth next to ours was a large group of young ladies, I’d say about 15 of them piled into a small sitting area. We immediately thought bachelorette party, but as the night went on, they didn’t exude that vibe. Finally, Chris asked one of the ladies what they were celebrating and how we immediately thought it was a bachelorette party. She scoffed at this notion and proceeded to explain how she used to work here and was working somewhere else, but is leaving that job, so they were all out celebrating her last day. Brad became completely interested in this girl and began talking to her and flirting. At one point Shawn, Brad, and the neighbor girl (I never caught her name) were playing a game where they bet shots on guessing age and ethnicity. She lost and had to take two shots, but I could tell she was nervous about taking drinks from these guys. I didn’t have any reason to suspect foul play so I didn’t interfere. At this point I lost track of how many Jameson shots these two guys had. Shawn was still functioning, but Brad could barely stand.

Shawn and I had some great conversations about being a Federal Air Marshal and how that impacts his home life. Without giving away too much personal information, Shawn is a second generation Air Marshal who has been serving for over 15 years.

Brad was still over talking to our neighbor who didn’t want to leave her party, but was interested in ours. At one point I saw him climbing over the wall between our areas, knocking over some glasses, and falling into the booth. Some of us thought, “He’s going to get us kicked out of here”. Our bottle of rum was about 1/4 full and we were ready to hit the road, it was 2:00am at this point. Shawn convinced us to stay and finish the bottle while he ordered up some more shots. I was standing by the railing, which separated our VIP area from the main bar area, holding my drink when two girls approached me. They reached out to shake my hand so I switched my drink to my left hand, wiped off any condensation on my jeans and shook their hand. They noted how cold my hand was and I explained it was because I was holding my drink there. They then started to comment on how big my hands where and made insinuating facial expressions. I know this as one their sales tactics, so I played along. One of the girls said to me, “you have really big hands, that must mean…” and she reached for my crotch and said “do you mind?” I said no, but motioned behind me and said “You’ll have to ask my wife.” They immediately said “oh no!” While quickly turning and walking away. I laughed and walked behind me and told the story to Stephanie and Heather. Those two were pretty intoxicated at this point so they laughed along.

Another nice young girl approached Brad, who at this point was swaying while standing up and had a glossed over look on this face, with the usual sales pitch. Shawn saw this and immediately came over, handed the girl $200 to buy him a few dances. As they walked away Shawn yelled “Happy Birthday Brad!” And we all joined in knowing it was definitely not his birthday. The girl escorting Brad away replied “Oh, that’s why you guys are out celebrating, happy birthday!”

We were wrapping things up and polishing off our drinks when we noticed Brad had been gone a lot longer than his previous trips to the champagne room. Shawn mentioned about them getting back to their hotel near the airport as they were flying out tomorrow. An Uber ride from the Strip District to the airport was going to cost over $80, so Chris offered to give them a ride much to Heather’s chagrin. Shawn then disappeared and the four of us collected our thoughts on how crazy it was that we were there and how all these drinks have been free. At one point, we were concerned that we have been scammed and could be stuck with the bar bill. All of a sudden we see Shawn talking to a police officer near the entrance. He waved us over in a way that suggested it was time to go. When we arrived at the entrance area, which also happened to be where the entrance to the champagne room was, Shawn was having a friendly chat with the police officer and Brad was standing there expressionless.

We walked out of the club, said our goodbyes, and thanked our new friends for the great night. They got in the car with Chris and Heather and headed towards the airport and Stephanie and I got our car and drove home.

Sometime later Heather sent me a few messages about what happened before we left. As of writing this I’m still not sure what happened exactly. Allegedly during one of Brad’s final interactions with the dancer, he removed his penis from his pants to insinuate an illegal act. This is a huge no-no for places like this, and most public places to be honest. Luckily he was not forcibly removed from the club or arrested. There could be more to that story, but it sounds pretty believable to me.

All in all it was a great night with old friends and new friends. No one got hurt (or arrested), everyone got home safely, and lived to tell the story. You’re probably reading this thinking “that really wasn’t that bad or hard to believe” but to us it was. Normally we have quiet adult evenings with our dogs, this took us out of our comfort zones and we had a good time. Hopefully we run into Shawn and Brad in the future, but if not I wish them the best luck!

The Best Songs of the Decade

2010 – 2019

Another decade is in the books and like the previous two it’s been a great 10 years of music.

As a music lover I decided to pick my best songs of the past decade. I had to constrict myself to certain rules in order to pick the “best”.

The rules are as follows:

The song had to be released as a single after December 31, 2009 and before then end of 2019.

An artist can only appear on the list once.

The selected song must have had a significant impact on popular culture.

Finally, the pick was a song that I enjoyed and listened to frequently over the past decade.

Let’s get into the list. The songs are not in order of best to worst, but in order of release date starting with the oldest.

  • Eminem – Love the Way You Lie (feat. Rihanna) – 2010
    • Eminem’s sort of comeback started off with this classic song featuring the already hot Rihanna. This would later lead to another successful decade for Eminem.
  • Ed Sheeran – Thinking Out Loud – 2014
    • Considered to be Ed’s greatest song so far, Thinking Out Loud shot him into super stardom after the release of his album X. One of the few ballads we saw during this decade.
  • Mark Ronson – Uptown Funk (feat. Bruno Mars) – 2014
    • Uptown Funk was so different and so good it started a new wave of 90s-style music that we saw even more of on Bruno Mars’ next album, 24K Magic.
  • Sam Hunt – Leave the Night On – 2014
    • Leave the Night On started the pop-country trend which opened people’s eyes to great singers like Sam Hunt.
  • Taylor Swift – Shake It Off – 2014
    • Widely regarded as the artist of the decade Taylor had a ton of hit songs during the past 10 years, but nothing impacted us more than Shake It Off.
  • Drake – Hotline Bling – 2015
    • Everyone remembers the dancing in the video, but Drake’s Hotline Bling was another pivotal song to defining the “twenty-teens” musical sound.
  • Luis Fonsi & Daddy Yankee – Despacito – 2017
    • I’ll never forget Despacito as being the resurgence of latino music in pop culture. This was a good song getting traction, then Justin Bieber hopped on a remix and it blasted it to the top of the charts.
  • P!nk – Beautiful Trauma – 2017
    • P!nk didn’t have a good start to this decade after having a great run the previous years. Beautiful Trauma signaled a comeback for the very talented singer and I picked this because it’s my favorite P!nk song to date.
  • Post Malone – rockstar (feat. 21 Savage) – 2017
    • Post Malone is a prodigy who keeps churning out hit songs one after another. Hopefully that doesn’t stop when this decade comes to a close. The song rockstar put Post in the spotlight and he has stayed there since.
  • Zedd, Maren Morris & Grey – The Middle – 2018
    • I still think this is an underrated song, even after all it’s success. Maren has established herself as not just a country-girl singer, but a crossover artist who has actual talent. It took a long time for Zedd to find a vocalist for this song, but when they heard Maren’s demo, they knew it had to be her.

Honorable Mention:

  • Nelly – Just a Dream – 2010
    • I chose Nelly’s Just a Dream not because it’s a personal favorite of mine, but because it came out towards the end of his successful run in the 2000s. Since Just a Dream we’ve seen many artists come on to the scene with very similar styles like Post Malone, Ty Dollar $ign, and Lil Nas X

I’m really looking forward to see what the “20s” brings us in the form of a musical sound. When we look back at previous decades, the “sound” from that decade can be easily heard. This decade may be one of the hardest to classify, but we’ll see if that get’s easier as we move forward in time.

See you in the 20s!

Side note – here are some artists I think will be on this list for the next decade:

Halsey, Billie Eilish, Lizzo, Justin Bieber, Post Malone, and Shawn Mendes.

Beard Blog Movie Review: American Made (2017)

The sky is never the limit

Tom Cruise plays a real life pilot in American Made who helps the CIA and Medellín drug cartel deliver goods across borders. Cruise decided to adopt an obviously fake Louisiana accent which goes a long way to making this movie somewhat annoying.

[perfectpullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]The fact that this is a true story is this films only saving grace.[/perfectpullquote]

Tom Cruise the pilot again

Barry Seal randomly gets recruited by the CIA and ends up living the lavish life with more cash than he knows what to do with. Throughout the whole movie, Seal gets in and out trouble almost too quickly. The whole film feels rushed just to get the end result which is you can see coming from a mile.

The true story factor kept this entertaining enough to finish. When the final scene cut and the credits rolled I was relieved to know that American Made was over.

Who should watch this movie? Fans of the Netflix series Narcos, Tom Cruise fans, and people that like movies about planes

Who shouldn’t watch this movie? Fans of popcorn movies, someone expecting another Top Gun, and the person wanting to be wowed by Cruise’s acting prowess.


5.5 / 10 – The fact that this is a true story is this films only saving grace.

See more of my movie reviews here

Read on for spoilers

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Don’t want nude photos from strangers?

Apparently some people have been sending naughty photos to nearby people using Apple’s AirDrop. While amusing, this could be startling to most people or down right perverted to minors.

Washington Post’s article about changing AirDrop.

To change your AirDrop settings, head into the Control Center — the menu that appears when you swipe up from the bottom of your screen. Just look for “AirDrop,” and it should tell you what your settings are. Tap the icon to turn off receiving completely, or you can choose to receive files from just your contacts or from everyone. (Those using Apple’s iOS 11 in beta can change these settings from the “General” menu of the settings app or by using 3D Touch on the Control Center panel that includes the switches for airplane mode and WiFi.)

Beard Blog Burrito Battle

Now normally I blog about technology, for those who actually read, but today I’m going to talk about something almost as near and dear to my heart… Food! Everyone eats food and like most Americans, I love food. This idea is something I’ve been working on for a few years after falling in love with the fast-casual Mexican food restaurants. These restaurants have been around for a while, but now they are really mainstream. Nowadays Chipotle is to food as Starbucks is to coffee. First, I’m going to list all the restaurants I’ve eaten at, in alphabetical order for simplicity, then rank them as best as I can. Read on for more!

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