Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Ezra Zion Inception Gran Robusto

Good afternoon smokers and drinkers.

The holidays are getting in full swing, and with my debit card smoldering from running across magnetic readers, I am making time for a pre-work cigar. I am by no means in love with the holidays or my job, so finding some calm in the storm with a top notch stogie and a pot of coffee will allow me to take stock and get perspective for the day.

 Hopefully the Ezra Zion Inception, the Gran Robusto, will give me the strength to fight my natural urges to sucker punch a mall Santa or scream profanities at somebody’s grandmother while trying to troubleshoot technical issues with her computer.  

A nice hefty little cigar, the wrapper a 2007 Cuban seed corjo, is a nice reddish brown color that exhibits some significant veins. Despite a few flaws in its rolling, it is still a pretty looking stogie.
The initial light of this 5.25 inch, 50 ring gauge Nicaraguan parejo is bold, leaning on the full side of the flavor profile. Exhibiting a lot of generic spice, there is just enough nutmeg and cinnamon essence to bring out the sweetness in the tobacco.

Inching into the smoke, an earthy base develops, muting the bright spice and opening and mellowing the cigar’s profile to a more medium full body.  This nice combination of spice and soil stays consistent for the rest of the smoking experience, only developing a very slight metallic ting as the cigar starts to singe the edges of its band.

At this point, perhaps brought on by the sticks strength, my lack of a breakfast, or a little from both columns, the cigar comes to a very enjoyable end for myself.

With the knot that was in the back of my neck evaporated in smoke, I reflect on the quality of the two cigars that I have had the pleasure to enjoy from Ezra Zion. A few years ago if you tried to market a cigar as being Cuban seed I likely would pass you over, as I have not, until this point, found much in them that reminds me anything of the few Cuban cigars I have had the pleasure of enjoying. This fledgling company has offered cigar smokers a pair of wonderful blends that, at least for myself, has whetted my appetite not only  for more from the boys at Cigar Federation and their baby, but for Cuban seed cigars in general.

Happy smoking!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Airing of the Grievances: Festivus Celebration of a Tech Support Drone

“Welcome, new comers. The tradition of Festivus begins with the airing of grievances. I got a lot of problems with you people! And now you're gonna hear about it!” – Frank Costanza (Fictional character from Seinfeld)

Puffing on a bowl of Mac Baren Navy Flake, and sipping on coffee, I am dreading the daily grind of earning my woeful pittance. Chained to a phone 40 hours a week, I am paid to endure oodles of stupidity and sloth helping Americans get their precious entertainment technology back on line.
I am not trying to suggest that all Americans, or hell, not even every caller I deal with, are dumber than a box chock full of Wham’s “Last Christmas” singles on audio cassette, but a fair amount certainly are.   
I am beginning the holiday season with a cue from the Costanzas in the hopes that I will find cathartic value (and maybe make a person or two chuckle) in the airing my tales of woe from the Tech Support side of the phone.

“It worked yesterday!”

No shit? Really? Well, thank God for this astute observation.

In all seriousness, if this is the response you are offering to the guy trying to get your video service running, or your computer back online, it is the equivalent of going to the doctor and saying “It hurts!”  and expecting  the physician to touch you with the hand of Jesus and dispel all of your woes.

We understand it was working previously and now that it isn’t. It is the sole reason we are having a conversation. If you are saying this more than once in a conversation, you are saying it more often than it needs to be said. Repeating this phrase ad nauseum just annoys us, and gets you no closer to watching “Homeland.”

“I don’t know anything about computers!”

Well, all I asked you to do is describe the lights on the router we provided you when the service was installed. I didn’t ask you to try to ping your router, perform trace back, or even touch your computer. I asked you to use your eyes and tell me what lights are lit up on the magic internet machine that, despite your oblivious relationship with, controls your life so much you are screaming at me to fix it.

New rule, if you can’t describe what a cable looks like, or what the text next to a light says, then you don’t deserve the joy of instant communication to the world. Your right to it has been officially revoked.

“My [TV/Phone/ Computer] isn’t working!”

"The batteries in my phone are saying 'charged' but not charging." (Actual Customer)
"Um, sorry, repeat that." (Me, dumbfounded)
"My phone isn't charging!"
"Oh, well I'm sorry, but Telecom Tech Support couldn't really help with that issue. I would suggest calling the manufacturer of your phone, but it might just be time to replace the battery."
"So I should call someone?"
"The manufacturer might be able to trouble shoot an issue with your phone that I can’t." 
"Do you have a number or something?"
"No, I'm sorry. I would suggest the manual that came with the phone, or the internet."
"Well, you were no help!" 

When it comes to calling your Telecom about your inability to get service, it is important to understand there is a demarcation point from which we can help you. If it is an issue with our service, by all means we will try to get it working. However, if the issue lies with your television not turning on, or your computer being slowed down by all the spyware you downloaded, don’t browbeat us because now you get “Big Bearded Boys in Boots” pop ups when trying to Google pictures of kittens.

The first part of our job is determine the cause of the problem, and then it is our job to either fix it (if we can) or let you know that this is an issue out of our hands. Trust me when I say it is easier for me to fix an issue on our end or replace our defective device as opposed to suggest that it is an issue with your property. It takes me less time to send you a new box than the argument that it will take to get you to believe you need to go to Best Buy for a new wireless network card.

“I need faster internet, ‘cause well, I look at a lot of porn. You know the website RedTube? It buffers a lot.” (Actual Customer)

Being a nerd, and American, I can definitely understand the desire to have a fast internet connection when doing anything. Now, there is value in letting a CSR know why you are trying to do something, however there is fine line where providing useful information becomes showing a stranger you are a pervert.

Don’t get me wrong, I love looking at images and videos of a downright nasty nature, but with the power of language we all can inform others of what we need, without giving the air that the hand not holding the phone is feverously working something other than the keyboard.

A quick lesson:
“The pictures of this barley legal Croatian teen deep throating a dozen guys takes too long to display” can become “I would like to download photos quicker.”
“Watching videos on CumExplosion.gov is super choppy, and is always buffering” is better stated “I am having issues watching videos online, is there anything we can do to resolve this?”
Just some food for thought.

“It’s your job to take my abuse.” (Actual Customer)

First off, go fuck yourself.

Secondly, no, my job is not to take your abuse. Despite that yes, I take a fair amount of customer abuse, my job is to do what I can to get your services back online.

I am an adult, so when an overgrown baby of man can’t get his football game, I will say that I am sorry for the inconvenience and drone out whatever bullshit you think is going to change the situation. Call me what you will, but your temper tantrum makes me less and less sympathetic to your “plight.” Really, I don’t care personally what you do or do not do with the service.

I feel bad for the customer who just gives up, and I feel best for the customer who will work hard to troubleshoot the issue, regardless of immediate resolution or not. For you though, mister “it’s your job to take my abuse,” I really don’t give two flying fucks for you, your opinions, or what you feel entitled to. 

If all you are going to do is unleash your puny attempt at instigating a fight with someone who is being bound by a job, you are little more than a troll, and a weak one at that.

Get off my phone, and stop wasting both of our time, you little bitch. Grow a pair, and listen to the game on the radio, our tech will be there later in the week.

“Thank you for calling, have a great day!”

After spending time mulling over what is arguably the second biggest headache in my life currently, I am reminded of the aspect that makes my job, at least a little bit, worthwhile.

While the hours, the pay, and the micromanagement all remind me that I need something better, the ability to help someone and to be told the simplest phrase of “thank you” goes a long way in making my day not suck. 

I can only hope for more days filled with people who will be partners in resolving their technical issues, as opposed to those who can just bitch and moan.

I would like to leave you with a few simple tips for getting the best customer service.

           Be ready to have a conversation. Be home, be able to access whatever you’re trying to address. Have your account number/phone number/social security number ready before you call. 

2      It’s okay to vent, but be able to recognize when it ceases being helpful in showing your frustration and starts to build a barrier between you and the CSR.

           Please and Thank you go a long way when you want something done. Use these words frequently.

            Ask questions. Your ignorance is a direct result of you not asking questions. CSR’s are educators of a company’s goods and service. Utilize them.

Now, I wish I could guarantee you that every representative you speak with will be as knowledgeable and courteous as you deserve, but we both know I can’t. I only hope you allow the opportunity to have your issue resolved by whomever you speak with in a manner consistent with how you also wish to be treated.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

"Reagan: 40th" by Ezra Zion Cigar Review

When you mention the name Ronald Reagan in mixed company you will get a wide range of responses. However, in circles of cigar smokers, who disproportionally are republicans, cigars are enjoyed in his name. While I can attribute qualities of leadership and intelligence to the fortieth Commander in Chief, to be honest, I find more in conflict than in union with his, and his party’s, ideals.  

From the rollers of Ezra Zion, regardless of party affiliation, cigar smokers can enjoy a pair of cigars bearing the President’s name.  A Nicaraguan, Cuban seed cigar, the blend comes in two offerings, the Churchill (54 x 6.75) sized “President,” and the 52 by 6 box pressed “40th” which I am enjoying today.  

The box press isn’t as exaggerated as other rollers’ interpretations of the vitola, but exhibits subtle squared sides that I enjoy holding in my fingers and between my teeth. The wrapper is expertly placed, camouflaging the edges of the exterior leaf almost flawlessly.  Combined with the oily, reddish brown hue of the tobacco, it is an example of the artistry that is the cigar.

 The talent of the roller acts as the introduction, an aesthetic the bridge to the blender’s complex and delicious crescendo of smoke. An earthy, sweet, prelight draw  is transformed into a peppery drum roll that gets my mustache twirling as smoke plumes out of my nose. A slight metallic backend shows itself around the edges of my palate, but evaporates from the cigar’s profile once about a half inch of ash is formed. 

As the pepper and spice notes temper with a nice leather backend, this medium full cigar remains enjoyable, avoiding any overly earthy or acrid off flavors that I feel sometimes persist in lesser Nicaraguan sticks.
This cigar was quite enjoyable, and I can only hope a cigar honoring Carter (perhaps a candela for his mild nature) or Lyndon Johnson can join the ranks of the “Reagan” series of cigars produced by Ezra Zion. 

I won’t hold my breath though. 

Happy smoking, to both sides of the isle! 

Friday, November 23, 2012

La Flor Dominicana Double Claro #50

It’s Black Friday, and Thanksgiving is just a fuzzy memory of a number of adult beverages, one dangerously warm raw turkey, an exploded Pyrex dish, and a cornbread stuffing that was accidently augmented by the addition of yellow cake mix. I am now trading in the crowds taking advantage of retail sales for a pot of coffee and a cigar.

Since I hope to enjoy another cigar this afternoon, and don’t want to obliterate my taste buds with a palate killer, nor do I want to make my empty stomach sick with a monstrous amount of nicotine, I select the lone candela in my humidor, a La Flor Dominicana (LFD) Double Claro #50. 

The green robusto, 50 by 5 inches, is free of any flaws or thick veins. Removing it from its cellophane, it has an enticing scent of sweet, grassy, fermenting tobacco. The cap comes off cleanly as I am forced to use a knife, as I cannot find a cutter or a punch to do the deed.  A prelight draw undermines the mild nature of the candela wrapper, exhibiting a base leaning towards spice rather than vegetation as anticipated.

The initial light offers the only detracting experience of the entire smoking experience, having a slight paper like flavor that quickly dissipates as the foot is toasted and begins to glow. Once the cigar gets revved up and burning like a champ, though, a full-flavored, delightfully spicy body graces the tongue, and leaves with a warm roasted nut backend.

As the cigar progresses, it becomes increasingly more mild, but retains the basic profile till it starts to singe my walrus like whiskers.  While little change occurs through the stogie, a complex blend of pepper, cinnamon, and nutmeg offers enough interest to make this one of the best cigars I have smoked in quite a while.  With none of the metallic or acrid flavors that can develop in even the best non-Cuban cigar, this is a must try for the serious mild cigar smoker, and a must have for my humidor.

Happy smoking, and happy holidays!
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