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Regarding the head of the National Telecommunications Commission...
Who is Gamaliel Cordoba? GMA (Arroyo) protégé, NTC head since Aug, 2009 Jul 2011, P186M plunder raps filed vs ex-PAGCOR chair Efraim Genuino, Gamaliel Cordoba, 39 others Dec 2013, COA orders Genuino, Cordoba,7 more to pay P26.7M over movie tix given to casino goers
The President has retained lawyer Gamaliel Cordoba as commissioner of the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC), the watchdog of mobile phone firms PLDT-Smart and Ayala-Globe. Cordoba, who is backed by the influential Iglesia Ni Cristo, has held the post since August 2009 when he was appointed by then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
Carlos Alexander, Billionaire, Evil Villain, and Antagonist Extraordinaire
I guess it is time to speak briefly on Carlos Alexander. His rise to fame, and subsequent infamy is due to his unique gift. He did not always have this gift though. Carolus Alexius was born in what is now Cordoba, Spain, to Roman parents living under Moorish rule. The year was 777. His parents being aristocrats, in the basest sense, he had access to the vast library there at Cordoba, and all the secrets it harbored. You see like us, the Unseen, Carlos Alexander is drawn to magical places, special people, powerful charms, purpose-made trinkets, and the like. It is in this way that people find the chests, and other cursed items. It is in this same way that we of the Orders find each other, and draw close, so they we can stand together against the dark forces that gather to do the same. There, from some ancient and dusty tome, he read aloud some perverse words, and pantomimed some obscure ritual, imbuing himself with an unnaturally extended lifespan. The means by which he achieved this is lost to us, likely he burned the instructions as soon as his ritual was compete. His terrible gift, along with his extended life, has allowed him to amass some of the most dangerous talismans we have ever seen. Through these talismans, he has gained power and dark influence all over the globe and beyond, and he holds sway over many. This influence also allowed him to gain enormous wealth. The companies which he has founded, and leads from the shadows, are industry leaders, and financial juggernauts. Through this interconnected network of companies, he is able to further his agenda, and spend his time concentrating his efforts where he is best served. Due to his high stature, Carlos Alexander must be careful not to let his secret be learned by any Profane. Even many of our Orders are not sure he exists; a powerful and ancient enigma, he had evaded every attempt at defeat or capture. He has moved many times throughout the years, and lived under a hundred different names, accordingly. Eventually he settled on a forever home, where he felt he could be intermittently safe. Located in Chile, in the coastal range foothills, near the Atacama Desert, his palatial estate is impossible to miss. A monolith of stark beauty amidst the desolate landscape. It was called Casa Culpeo, so named for a species of fox native to the area. Its construction started in the late 1780’s and employed the skill of so many skilled tradesmen; masters in stonework, carpentry, botany, fresco and mosaic, and painters. Once they all had completed their great work, Carlos Alexander slaughtered each one personally, and buried them in the remote desert. None would remain alive to tell about it, so that the sands could hold his secrets for all time. Only a few and select would be lucky enough to ever see it and to experience its wonders, and live to tell about it. The property itself was a veritable Babylon. Lush greenery, colorful fragrant blooms, tall stately trees, and robust hedges abounded. Sculptures of the finest quality stared out over flora of the rarest and most expensive varieties. Fountains, ponds, and streams accented and divided the gardens, evoking the feelings of a European estate. The main building itself, was hewn from megalithic stone, arranged in the manner of cyclopean architecture. Inside, the halls themselves were adorned with prodigious amounts of art. Alcoves housed dignified marble busts of men and women of renown, and infamy. Even a more-than-casual visitor to the property, might not guess at the secrets it hid. Palatial, and expansive in its layout, every room held a plethora of rich decoration, and ornate adornment. One particular room, the study, held more than just mundane books though. The third shelf on the west facing wall had a small brass handle near the back of the lowest shelf. Pulling down would cause the shelf to swing open, revealing a locked door. Through the doorway was a descending staircase, that stretched down into the very bedrock upon which the estate was built. At the bottom, another door, also locked. That door opened into a long hallway, stretching nearly a quarter mile. The whole length was hexed with dozens of special charms developed by Mr. Alexander for just this purpose. In the centuries since their employment, they had never failed. At the end of the hallway was a final door; unlocked. None but him had ever gotten as far, so there was no need for chains or locks. Behind that door lay Carlos’s own veritable cabinet of curiosities. In his extensive collections of dark and nefarious and items, Mr. Alexander kept many artifacts of unsavory renown. His collections, which sat undisturbed in the vault below his study, might seem entirely benign, if not a touch macabre, to the average person. Rows of rich wooden shelves lined the room, and a grand wooden table was at its center. All lined with specimen jars, archeological looking objects, resplendent trinkets, human bones, and other seemingly valuable talismans and tokens. On the shelf against the northern wall was one of Mr. Alexander’s favorite pieces. Nestled between a jar containing a preserved parasitic shrimp from another world, and a Human skull with a huge ragged hole in it, sat a single American Dollar Bill, 2000 Series minted in Philadephia. It was unremarkable save the blue smiley face stamped on it. Aside from this, it generally looked like any other gently used dollar bill in every other way. A little girl named Dolores stamped that smiley face on it when her mother wasn’t looking, sometime in 2001. Dolores was regrettably killed in a bus accident while carrying that dollar to school for lunch the very next day. It was found in her wallet and returned to the family by the coroner with her blood-stained clothes. Her mom kept it for a month or two, but it pained her too much to keep it. So one day she burned the clothes in the fireplace. She took the dollar and stuffed it in a charity box for sick children, on the counter at the liquor store she had become such a frequent customer of. That tin charity box, with pictures of sick kids pasted around it, was never meant for charity, however. The owner of that particular convenience store was as unscrupulous as he was greedy, and he emptied that money right into his safe every month. He didn’t care about those sick kids, not one lick. He didn’t care much about anybody. Like his employees either. So one night, John and Alex, the owner’s two longest serving minimum wage employees, hit their boss over the head with a bottle of cheap wine while he counted his money. They made away with about fifteen grand. Good haul for them. Though their freedom was short lived, they made sure to spend every penny of that money. They were in jail within forty-eight hours, having been the prime suspects from the moment someone found the old, miserly store owner dead in his office the next morning. A good portion of that money was spent at a little gem of a strip club, over on the local highway, less than twenty minutes away. Our dollar found its way into the G-string of a tall leggy blond, stage name Charlize. She had a reputation as an easy lay. She used the money the two robbers gave her to buy a nice bag of heroin from her pimp, I mean, boyfriend. He liked it when his girls were drugged out and complacent. What none of them knew was that it unfortunately was not even heroin. It was Fentanyl; and these amateur street cooks out there couldn’t guarantee strength or purity. Dirty street shit like that is guaranteed to have a 10% overdose ratio. Charlize’s boyfriend, Danny, rolled the dollar with the smiley face up and handed it to her with a fresh line of that smack. He left her to die in that room, dollar still in her hand, alone to suffocate in her own vomit. The police were alerted to her after the hotel manager went to collect his money for the “short stay” and found a dead stripper with a face full of drugs. And our dollar went into an evidence bag. It sat on a shelf in Warwick Police Department for ten years until a bad cop, down on his luck, rummaged through old confiscated items for anything of value he could pawn. He wiped off the dollar and stuffed it directly in his wallet, among the myriad other things he had swiped. He needed the money to pay back a big gambling debt to some shady mobsters from an illegal casino down in Atlantic City. He went to them nearly empty-handed, and they did not appreciate his offer of a payment plan. They killed him, of course. And when they were stripping his body of clothes, they found his wallet. One expired credit card, and $16 dollars in cash; a ten, a five and our one dollar bill. These made-men returned to their high stake poker tables after the hit, and happened to sit across from Carlos Alexander, and some of his more dangerous associates, at a poker match. The made-men had no idea what that dollar was. Carlos knew though. He wagered a great deal of money that night to win that dollar from them, goading them into larger and larger bets. These mobsters pulled every denomination of bill from every pocket they had, but they wouldn’t budge; all he wanted was that dollar. The dark power of it was calling to the mobster who had taken it off of the dead man, bidding him to keep it for himself. Like all the dollar’s previous owners however, he was destined to die. Carlos Alexander did get that dollar, even though he had to slaughter every mobster in the room, with some help from some of his baser acquaintances. Once it started, it didn’t take long to finish. Three minutes of pure carnage, and he had it. As his companions feasted on the flesh of the dead, he pulled a handkerchief from his pocket, and wiped the blood from his eyes, making sure not to dirty the dollar. He stared at it, the dark emanations of its power pulsing in his hand. Carlos Alexander smiled. He already had a place picked out for it, in his collection.
Alright, this is a fairly comprehensive list of all the active launch sites on Earth as of the year 1999, in Overheaven’s alternate history timeline. Realistically, most of these only launch satellites, and the ones that do shoot people into space are probably doing so with capsules, though the more developed countries have fleets of reusable space planes (both manned and unmanned). The overwhelming majority of launches are going to be routine unmanned, reusable rockets sending up supplies or satellites or space station construction materials, and then touching back down on the launch pad like SpaceX's BFR (we get that level of reusable launch vehicle by the mid/late 70's, rather than the late 2010’s - amazing what you can accomplish when two superpowers feel the need to put thousands of nukes in orbit, because the 1967 Outer Space Treaty never happened). Many are run by the military or public-sector space agencies like the ESA, NASA, the Commonwealth Space Program, or Soyuzcosmos (the USSR's NASA counterpart), but I'm willing to bet that at least half (perhaps even two-thirds) of these are private-sector operations, and most non-military public-sector launch sites do private-sector flights as well. Rockets like the Sea Dragon theoretically don't really need launchpads, and while there might be launch facilities which specialize with Sea Dragon-type rockets, I think that the smaller spaceflight companies would just buy one of these rockets, strap the payload on top, and tow it out to sea near the equator for launch. And there's also air-launched sub-orbital vehicles (stuff like Virgin Galactic's White Knight), which I wager could take off from regular old airports on the backs of Boeing 747's or Antonov 124's. Some of these are existing rocket launch sites (mostly for sounding rockets), which I've turned into full-on Cape Canaveral/Baikonur-type facilities, while others are proposed locations for launch sites, and some are just good ideas I figured would work but never appeared in our timeline. Anyway, I'm pretty sure this is enough space infrastructure to serve as the basis for a smoothly-running interplanetary civilization by 1999, with the Internet still in its infancy. In Overheaven’s alternate timeline, the lack of an OST leads to a more aggressive and ambitious space race. Men on on Mars by 1976, men on Venus by 1978, and the construction of huge nuclear missile platforms in orbit by both superpowers. By the late 70’s, space industry was just getting started, and by the 80’s, the “Space Boom” was in full swing, baby. Experimental atomic research, rotating space hotels, medical and chemical research labs in orbit, space manufacturing, solar power satellites, mining near-earth asteroids, space tourism, orbital fuel depots, telecom sats, space casinos, offworld banking, and so much more. By the late 1990’s, the idea of people working and even living in space is still exciting, but it’s also pretty damn normal now. With all these launches, plus material being extracted from Luna and near-Earth asteroids, I think it's perfectly feasible for there to be a few Stanford Toruses, and at least one O'Neill Cylinder, under construction in Earth orbit by '99. And as launch costs continue to plummet, expect the scale of humanity's ambitions to only escalate. And these are just the launch sites on Earth. I don't even know how many orbital launch facilities there'd be by this point - huge space stations building truly-massive vessels in zero-g with all those resources we're shooting up on what I imagine is a daily or even hourly basis; ships like those, built and fueled in orbit, would undoubtedly be able to reach Mars, Venus, Mercury, the Main Belt and Jupiter with relative ease. And everything I've stated here will only continue to grow at a geometric rate as more of the Solar System's resources are harnessed, spaceflight costs continue to drop, and technology continues to improve. And we’re not talking about Overheaven’s current year, which isn’t actually 1999. It’s 2185. Oh, right. Here's the list: United States of America: Cape Kennedy Space Center (Merritt Island, Florida) Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (Delmarva Peninsula, Virginia) John Glenn Memorial Spaceport (Matagorda Island, Texas) Southwestern Regional Spaceport (Roswell, New Mexico) White Sands Launch Center (White Sands, New Mexico) Datil Launch Center (Datil, New Mexico) Yuma Spaceport (Yuma, Arizona) Keweenaw Spaceport (Keweenaw Peninsula, Michigan) John Bardeen Memorial Launch Center (Sheboygan, Wisconsin) Mojave Spaceport (Mojave, California) Vanderberg Space Center (Lompoc, California) Oklahoma Spaceport (Burn Flats, Oklahoma) Kodiak Launch Complex (Kodiak Island, Alaska) Stockton Space Center (Stockton, Arizona) Lone Star Space Center (Van Horn, Texas) Coleman Launch Center (Sea Dragon launch facility located between Tutuila island and Manu’a island, American Samoa) Johnston Space Center (Johnston Atoll, Pacific Ocean) Sarigan Launch Center (Sairgan, Northern Marianas Islands) Reagan Launch Center (Kwajalein Atoll, Republic of the Marshall Islands) Poseidon (privately-operated mobile sea-launch platform in the Gulf of Mexico) Ocean Odyssey Launch Complex (privately-operated mobile sea-launch platform in the Pacific Ocean) Union of Soviet Sovereign Republics: Baikonur Cosmodrome (Baikonur, Star City) Tereshkova Cosmodrome (Zapovednoye, Primorsky Krai, Far Eastern SSR) Vostochny Cosmodrome (Tsiolkovsky, Amur Oblast, Far Eastern SSR) Okhotsk Cosmodrome (Okhotsk, Khabarovsk Krai, Far Eastern SSR) Sarishagan Cosmodrome (Priozersk, Karaganda Oblast, Kazakh SSR) Nyonoksa Cosmodrome (Severodvinsk, Archangelsk Oblast, Russian SSR) Plesetsk Cosmodrome (Mirny, Archangelsk Oblast, Russian SSR) Kapustin Yar Cosmodrome (Znamensk, Astrakhan Oblast, Russian SSR) Isakov Cosmodrome (mobile sea-launch platform in the Indian Ocean, currently 960 miles off the coast of Sri Lanka) European Space Agency/European Union: Guiana Space Center (Kourou, French Guiana) Archimedes Launch Center (Syracuse, Sicily, Italy) Nuka Hiva Space Center (Marquises, French Polynesia) Touamotu Space Center (Rairoa, French Polynesia) Fort-Dauphin Space Center (Tôlanaro, Republic of Madagascar) Borglio Space Center (offshore platform off the coast of Kenya, administered by Italy) Koroni Launch Center (Messenia, Greece) Salto di Quirra Spaceport (Sardinia, Italy) Cuxhaven Launch Center (Cuxhaven, Germany) Ile du Levant Launch Center (Iles d’Hyeres, France) El Arenosillo Spaceport (Mazagon, Spain) Svalbard Space Center (Ny-Alesund, Svalbard, Norway) (northern-most spaceport in the world) Andøya Space Center (Andøya, Norway) Esrange Launch Center (Kiruna, Sweden) Oberth-Barre Launch Center (Bangoli, Orientale Province, Zaire) OTRAG Launch Center (North Sheba, Katanga Province, Zaire) (privately-operated spaceport, under German/EU jurisdiction) People’s Republic of China: Dongfeng Aerospace City (Ejin Banner, Inner Mongolia) Hotan Aerospace City (Hotan, Xinjiang) Xichang Launch Center (Liangshan, Sichuan) Wenchang Launch Center (Wenchang, Hainan) Taiyaun Launch Center (Xinzhou, Shanxi) Taiwan (Republic of China): Sanxiantai Launch Center (Sanxiantai, Taitung) Haiqian Launch Center (Manzhou, Pingtung) Republic of Bulgaria: Smrikite Cosmodrome (Varna Province) Republic of Hong Kong and Macau: Stanley Ho Space Center (Tai Chau Island, New Territories) (part of the Commonwealth Space Program) Islamic Republic of Pakistan: Sonmiani Launch Center (Las Bela, Balochistan) Tilla Launch Center (Jhelum, Punjab) Federative Republic of Brazil: Barreira do Inferno Launch Center (Parnamirim, Rio Grande do Norte) Praia do Cassino Launch Center (Rio Grande do Sul) Alcântara Spaceport (Alcântara, Maranhão) Belém Spaceport (Vigia, Para) United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland: Sutherland Spaceport (Caithness and Sutherland, Highland, Scotland) (part of the Commonwealth Space Program) South Uist Space Center (South Uist, Outer Hebrides, Scotland) (part of the Commonwealth Space Program) Newquay Space Center (Newquay, Cornwall, England) (part of the Commonwealth Space Program) Ascension Launch Center (Unicorn Point, Ascension Island, South Atlantic) (part of the Commonwealth Space Program) Diego Garcia Launch Center (Diego Garcia, British Indian Ocean Territory) (part of the Commonwealth Space Program) Federal Republic of Romania: Costinești Space Center (Constanta County) Republic of Colombia: Soledad Launch Center (Caquetá Department) (jointly-operated with the United States) Commonwealth of Nations/Commonwealth Space Program: Mount Kenya Space Center (Nyeri County, Republic of Kenya) Kilimanjaro Space Center (Kilimanjaro Region, United Republic of Tanzania) Gan Launch Center (Gan, Addu Atoll, Maldives) (jointly-operated by the Commonwealth and India) Commonwealth of Australia: Woomera Space Center (Woomera, South Australia) (part of the Commonwealth Space Program) Darwin Space Center (Darwin, Northern Territory) (part of the Commonwealth Space Program) Carnarvon Space Center (Carnarvon, Western Australia) (part of the Commonwealth Space Program) Manus Space Center (Manus Island, Admiralty Islands, Papua New Guinea) (part of the Commonwealth Space Program) Weipa Launch Center (Mission River, Cape York, Queensland) (part of the Commonwealth Space Program) Christmas Island Space Center (South Point, Christmas Island) (jointly-operated by Australia and Japan) Spaceport Valhalla (offshore privately-run launch platform off the coast of East Timor) State of Japan: Tanegashima Space Center (Tanegashima Island, Kagoshima) Uchinoura Space Center (Kimotsuki, Kagoshima) Akita Satellite Launch Center (Akita, Tohoku) Obachi Satellite Launch Center (Rokkasho, Aomori) Okinotorishima Space Center (Okinotori Reef) (a very large launch platform built atop a coral reef, mostly so Tokyo can thumb their nose at an EEZ dispute with China and Taiwan, increasingly growing into a small city in the middle of the Pacific Ocean) Ryori Space Center (Iwate, Tohoku) Watatsumi Launch Platform (very large mobile sea-launch platform in the south Pacific Ocean, currently 100 miles off the coast of Baker Island, USA) Asada Goryu Space Center (Wuvulu Island, Bismarck Archipelago, New Guinea) New Zealand: Birdling’s Flat Launch Center (Canterbury, South Island) (part of the Commonwealth Space Program) Mahia Launch Center (Hawke’s Bay, North Island) (part of the Commonwealth Space Program) Federal Republic of Yugoslavia: Morava Spaceport (Lađevci, Republic of Šumadija) Imperial State of Iran: Qom Space Center (Qom Province) Emamshahr Space Center (Semnan Province) Semnan Spaceport (Semnan Province) Republic of Algeria: Hammaguir Space Center (Hammaguir, Abadla District) (originally built by the French, abandoned in the 60’s, brought back online by the Algerian government in the 80’s) West Indies Federation: Barbados Space Center (Kitridge Point, Barbados) (part of the Commonwealth Space Program) St. Margaret Space Center (St. Margaret, Trinidad & Tobago) (part of the Commonwealth Space Program) Mabaruma Space Center (Mabaruma, Barima-Waini, Guyana) (part of the Commonwealth Space Program) State of Israel: Albert Einstein Space Center (Hasna, Sinai Peninsula, Israel) (recently launched a Palestinian-designed satellite into orbit as a sign of goodwill) Socialist Republic of Vietnam: Phạm Tuân Launch Center (Hon Khaoi Island) (jointly operated with USSR) Malaysia: Riau Space Center (Padang, Riau Island) Ahmad Shah Space Center (Larapan Island, Sabah) Republic of India: Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala) Satish Dhawan Space Centre (Sriharikota, Andhra Pradesh) Abdul Kalam Space Centre (Bhubaneswar, Odisha) Canada: Churchill Space Center (Churchill, Manitoba) (part of the Commonwealth Space Program) Primrose Lake Launch Center (Cold Lake, Alberta) (part of the Commonwealth Space Program) Maritime Launch Center (Canso, Nova Scotia) (part of the Commonwealth Space Program) Cape Breton Spaceport (Cape Breton, Nova Scotia) (part of the Commonwealth Space Program) Grand Turk Space Center (Grand Turk Island, Turks and Caicos, Canada) (part of the Commonwealth Space Program) Dominican Republic: Las Terrenas Space Center (Las Terrenas, Samaná Province) (jointly-operated with the United States) People’s Democratic Republic of South Yemen: Qahtan Muhammad al-Shaabi Launch Center (offshore platform off the coast of Socotra) (jointly-operated with the USSR) Republic of Ecuador: Puerto Quito Launch Center (Pichincha Province) (jointly-operated with the United States) Republic of Poland: Łeba-Rąbka Spaceport (Pomeranian Voivodeship) Blizna Spaceport (Podkarpackie Voivodeship) Republic of the Philippines: Clark Freeport and Special Economic Zone (Clark Field, Metro Manilla) Lambajon Launch Center (Lambajon, Mindanao) (built with Japanese investment in the 1970’s, recently came under joint Japanese-Filipino administration) Republic of Cuba: Juventud Spaceport (Cayo San Juan, Isla de la Juventud, Cuba) (operated jointly with the USSR) Republic of Chile: Isla San Felix Launch Center (Isla San Felix) Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya: Libyan People’s Space City (Sabha, Fezzan) Korean Federation: Tonghae Spaceport (Musudan, North Hamyong) (originally built by the DPRK in the 80’s) Anhueng Spaceport (Hoengseong County, Gangwon Province) Naro Space Center (Goheung County, South Jeolla Province) Iraqi Republic: Babylon Space City (Al-Anbar region) (jointly operated by the Iraqi and Syrian governments; operates Tammouz rockets for manned launches and Project Babylon super-guns for satellites) United Mexican States: Sierra de Jaurez Launch Center (Sierra de Juarez, Baja California) Alcubierre Spaceport (Laguna Tamiahua, Veracruz) Puerto Bravo Launch Center (Puerto Bravo, Quintana Roo) Republic of Singapore: Changi Spaceport (Changi, Singapore) Republic of Zaire: Mbandaka Spaceport (Bamanya, Equateur Province) Republic of Indonesia: Motorai Launch Center (Motorai Island, North Maluku) Biak Launch Center (Biak Island, West Papua) Enggano Launch Center (Enggano Island, Bengkulu) Republic of Argentina: CELPA (El Chamical, La Roja Province) Felix Aguilar Launch Center (Pampa de Achala, Cordoba Province) San Martin Launch Center (Mar Chiquita, Buenos Aires Province) Marambio Launch Center (Marambio Base, Antarctica) (southern-most spaceport in the world) Kingdom of Saudi Arabia: King Khalid Spaceport (Tabuk, Tabuk Province) Al Haddar Spaceport (Al Haddar, Riyadh Province) Apartheid South Africa: Denel Overberg Launch Centre (Agulhas, Cape Province) Walvis Bay Launch Centre (Swakopmund, Southwest Africa) Aquarius Mobile Launch Platform (mobile sea-launch platform in the Atlantic Ocean, 894 miles off the coast of Liberia) Jan Smuts Launch Centre (St. Lucia, Natal)
This year was my second trip to Drew Estate Cigar Safari with Cigar Federation. The trip this year had a lot more meaning since SmokinLogan was able to raise $10,000 to help Techo and build 5 houses for poor families in Nicaragua. The trip started in Managua where me nakieninja, realmadmonkey, and shadowbates met up and exchanged cigars and started boozing up. When the booze was done we walked over to the casino and shadowbates bought 10 shots of Flor de Cana but two of the guys didn't drink so me Shad and Tripp were left to take down the rest of the shots. I played some Nicaragua slots for 10 Cordoba (28 Cordoba = $1) and was up to 100 Cordoba before the machine won and took my money. The other guys played roulette but I think only one guy won anything. The next day the bus arrived and took us past downtown Managua and we drove by the unknown soldier and this year I was finally able to grab a picture of him since I knew we'd be passing by. We then went to a great steakhouse for lunch and were well-fed for our three hour trip to Esteli in the mountains. It was the calm before the storm but the next few days were going to be spent on hard labor. The next day the bus came and took us to the Oscar Gamez neighborhood in Esteli. Oscar Gamez is home to some of the poorest people in Nicaragua some of these people do not even earn a dollar a day. We met up with the TECHO volunteers and I was handed two giant dirt breaker poles and we walked a few blocks to an old lady's home. The shack was made of wooden planks that were dried out and they had a metal sheet roof. In the small house were six beds on a dirt floor and barely any room. twistedcircuits99 and me watched the volunteers as they measured and they gave us those poles to start digging holes through rock. We had to put posts in and eventually had to crawl down to haul dirt out of the holes we dug. This process was tedious but eventually we laid down the posts. The other teams were not so lucky and had way more rocks in their yard or way deeper holes to dig. Lacking proper digging equipment seemed to rile up most everybody but we had no choice but to use the tools they gave us. Eventually we built these folks a house and while it was a small place by American standards, for these people it gave them a wooden floor new walls. The old lady thanked us for our work and cried when we gave her the new keys. It was a touching moment but went to demonstrate how small things can mean a lot to people. Despite having nothing (not even a bathroom) the family always tried to give us coffee, juice, and snacks. They worked hard to help build the house and it meant a lot to be able to help them even though the work was torture and the primitive tools took a toll on all of our morale. After two days of labor, we were given a free day and SmokinLogan dialed in favors and got us tours at Black Label Trading Company, RoMa Craft and La Zona where Espinosa Cigars are made. I know I liked Black Label Trading Company from the start. James Brown the master blender was smoking a lancero and ran a very clean and organized factory. There weren't many rollers but the operation was very mom and pop and they had their son playing in the offices and their dog chillin' with us visitors. The aging room was great and we were able to pick up some things to try. They gave us an NKB and I was impressed. I was sad they did not have any lanceros for sale but then they dug up some Last Rits lanceros for me!!! I smoked one at lunch and had a lot of respect for the company because I had heard of their cigars before and never gave them a shot because I didn't know much about them (they started in 2014), but after smoking their cigars I am a believer. Next, Skip Martin gave us a personal tour of El Nica Sueno. Having met Skip not long ago I knew he was good at shooting the breeze and talking about all of his food and beer pics. On this trip, he showed his business side which was a detailed rundown of how tobacco goes in and out of his factory and using lean principles to keep the factory well run and efficient which in turns makes for more affordable cigars. I was surprised to learn that they don't have sales reps which definitely keeps prices low! The other thing I learned at Nica Sueno is that there is only one pair who roll lanceros and they only do it once a year. Having never seen a lancero rolled, Skip had one of his rollers roll using a newpaper technique. Skip gave us La Campanas and Wanderlust to try. All in all for a small shop, El Nica Sueno produces over a million cigars a year and I was very impressed with Skip's detailed tour. At La Zona we found a lot of cigars, they were making cigars for so many different companies and it was overwhelming. Lots of workers and lots of tobacco everywhere. By this point in the day the heat and exhaustion and aching got to us. Three factory tours in one day is a a lot and you see that in the smaller factories the process is somewhat the same. Tobacco comes in, it is sorted, sometimes fermented, then it is sorted then bunched then rolled the pressed, then it goes through QA, if it makes it past QA then it goes to the aging room then the packaging room. The analogy everyone seems to use is that we all make spaghetti but that everyone does it in their own style. The next day the Drew Estate Cigar Safari was well under way. We made it to the Oliva family tobacco farm (not to be confused with the Miami Olivas) and were shown seeds and a fermenting barn. Later, we got to go to the fields. I really enjoyed the trip this time as last year's trip we didn't get to see any plants because they had all been harvested. The fields were plentiful and it was really cool to see a full blown plant in bloom then see other plants being grown in the shade for wrapper. The shade plants were smooth and silk and it was a sight to see. Next we went to a curing barn and learned how the leaves are stacked up and that charcoal is burned periodically to help dry out the leaves. It is damp and cool in these barns but there is plenty of circulation. The surprise they added to Cigar Safari was to take us to a very historical rock. For those of you who don't know, each city in Nicaragua was allowed to pick their own symbol. For Esteli, they chose a painting of a shaman which is known as El Brujito. It is the symbol of Esteli and was carved in a rock high in the mountains long ago. If you notice this El Brujito is also on the Nica Rustica cigar art. In the afternoon, we got to visit Nicaragua's oldest cigar factory, Joya de Nicaragua. This tour is always impressive since there are about 300 rollers in the factory but even here they only roll lanceros periodically throughout the year, much to my chagrin. I do like the Joya tour since they are very well organized and enjoy asking and answering questions to keep you engaged. Here is a picture from their sorting room where cigars are sorted by color. At Joya we also got to blend cigars. I went with an Ecuador Habano wrapper with a Mexican San Andres binder and ASP Ligero, Jalapa Viso and Condega Seco. We'll see how this turns out in a few months. When we got back for dinner, Robert Caldwell was hanging out at the factory and SmokinLogan and avrus went upstairs to start Cigar Chat. I eventually hopped over to watch and so did Willy Herrera and Robert Caldwell. Since it was nakieninja's birthday, all of a sudden a cake was brought in and a Mariachi band rolled in while the show was live on air. Kind of surreal but they even broke out a pinata to smash that was full of candy. I think if they filled it with cigars it would have been way crazier!!! The next day we headed to Drew Estate Factory II and started off in the bale warehouse this thing has literally millions of tobacco in it and it goes very high and very long. There are three years of tobacco production housed here and they take care to freeze the tobacco but also fumigate every month to make sure NO BEETLES. In the fermentation room we got to see the same tobacco aged for different periods of time and smell dat ammonia that was very pungent on the nostrils. Workers wore masks and were setting up new pilons for tobacco fermentation. Before lunch we stopped at Subculture Studios which produces all of Drew Estate's art. I always love that they always keep a piece of home in their studio as an homage to their great friends in Chicago. While in the studio I got a glimpse of some goats they were working on! twistedcircuits99 and OhSoHoppy ponied up for a tattoo and at lunch it was my idea for folks to pool up to give nakieninja a tattoo for his birthday! As you can see OhSoHoppy came back with the baddest ass tattoo that took like 4-6 hours. Later in the afternoon we were off to Drew Estate I. Most employees take the company shuttle bus to work but a good many also bike to work. On the rolling floor it is an incredible blast of noise from rolling, pressing, bunching, and a loud clamor every inch of the floor. Music plays in the background and people are constantly in motion. I found the one girl who rolls lanceros, it was an honor to see her as she is the only one rolling L40's! Drew Estate makes 120,000 cigars a day so there are so many rollers and production is up 20% from last year if I recall correctly. While in the aging room I noticed these TAAs that Willy Herrera was mentioning about dinner but I didn't want to post anything til they made the announcement! Eventually JD showed up and was very gracious and thankful we were there. He announced the new collaboration with Robert Caldwell and Willy Herrera called All Out Kings. It was kind of nuts being the first of the general public to learn about it on Cigar Safari. Caldwell and Willy both were enthusiastic on the new collaboration but no work had yet been done so we'll have to see what they come up with. Right after the announcement SmokinLogan and avrus were right on it making a new video for the announcement. As the day wound down and the evening came, the last day of Cigar Safari was upon us. Our Joya de Nicaragua blends came back to us and the Drew Estate blends were fresh and ready to go. Art from Subculture Studios came back to us and it really was the beginning of the end of a great trip. All in all I think Cigar Safari is my favorite time of the year not only because I get to smoke and drink all week with SmokinLogan, avrus, realmadmonkey, OhSoHoppy, twistedcircuits99, shadowbates, and nakieninja but because you get to appreciate all the hard work that goes into growing and fermenting and rolling tobacco. There really are so many steps it takes and so many hands that go into making one cigar and it always puts things into perspective. I am glad I am back and I want to thank SmokinLogan for setting up the trip and tours and Drew Estate for being such phenomenal hosts. If you enjoy Drew Estate Cigars, I highly recommend this trip you will learn a lot about tobacco. Cigars Smoked 2/20
Winner Sports unveils the Midweek Enhanced Multiples
Those who love European football are probably disappointed that the Champions League is on recess and the flagship competition will only restart in February. Midweek used to be special for this reason, but now that the most important tournament in the old continent is on break, domestic championships provide a welcomed distraction. Add to this the fact that several Cup games are also scheduled for this week and you got your hands full and numerous winning opportunities. Winner Sports is one of the places where players can wager on all the aforesaid leagues and cups and this week they will benefit from boosted odds. The popular Midweek Enhanced Multiples promotion has returned and the same rules apply, with those who don't mind placing accumulator bets being the main beneficiaries. These guys have three different options, with the odds increased significantly by the bookie. The first option is to bet on Liverpool, Lyon and Southorpe all to win in 90 minutes, with the odds being increased to 7/1. This is significantly more than what players would normally enjoy had they wagered on these three games outside this promotion. Winner Sports guarantees that this particular combination has the best odds anywhere to be found over the Internet, so if you fancy these teams, back them up. If you prefer German football and trust Dortmund, Frankfurt and Schalke to win, know that these three teams can increase your investment nine times. These games are played in the German first division, so there is no overtime and the results are calculated based on what happens after 90 minutes. All three teams are favorite to win individually and even though having all of them on the same betting slip carries some risks, the generous odds makes them worth taking. Last but definitely not least, Spanish football aficionados, will find the odds of 17/2 for Cordoba, Eibar and Levante all to win to be much to their liking. These themes are only narrow margin favorites to prevail as they are pit against tough opponents, but they are still credited with the first chance. If the games and undecided after 90 minutes, overtime will be played out, but as far as punters are concerned, this doesn't matter because regulation time results decide the outcome of the bets. from via Casinoreviews
The setup! I really really want a Squier Classic Vibe 50s tele. I can get one for $340 USD. I have equipment I can sell to get it. Here is what I have... So I have 3 primary guitars. I have a Epiphone Les Paul w/ a Bigsby. I emulate Neil Young a lot when I play, so this one should stay, but it is heavy as hell! It actually hurts my shoulder after a 3 hour session. I have a tweed hardshell case for it. I think I should be able to sell it all for $400, but I'd be losing $100 on my investment there. I have an Epiphone Casino, straight stock, no case. It's the antithesis of heavy! I want to keep it for its vintage tones and its 6.5 pounds of ease when I play. I can sell it for $500 or more, but I would sincerely regret it. I also have a Cordoba C5 CE. It's a very nice classical with electronics. I want to keep it as it's my only acoustic guitar, and while the band doesn't ever see it, it's what I take to open mics and what I use to write lyrics and such. So, I have 3 guitars that I don't want to lose. The Les Paul is my first thought, but then that leaves me with no Bigsby, no guitar with humbuckers. Other things I could sell include Strymon pedals. I have the Ola, Brigadier, and the OB1. I use chorus often, but my amp has built in tube frequency modulation (old Mangnatone circuitry) that I could use instead. If I missed it terribly, I could replace it with another chorus pedal down the line. I also have a Douglas 'Beatle' bass I could hock for about $150, but I really like having that about. Ugggh! Help me fellow lefties!
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