25 July 2014

Ninth Year of Blogging: Embracing my Identity as a Blogger

Today marks my ninth anniversary since having begun blogging (yay!) and this past year was one of my most exciting years of blogging.

Deciding in December to spin off an "impersonal blog" in order to have a more public self-blogging persona, leaving this blog to remain as my "personal blog" was a big move for me, for my identity, and for my sense of self.  It was great!  For a half-year, my Drew's Views project went well and I enjoyed having that more public website. Amongst other things, it resulted in my first press pass, I spun off a separate Star Wars blog, and got some positive feedback on the panel presentations about which I had wrote at Long Beach Comic Expo.

I followed up the Drew's Views project with the launch of Matters of Interest earlier this month.  Moving away from a fixed weekly content schedule, it has freed me up to post about things of interest as they come up.  I also intended to cast my net wider [content-wise] and I have a great feeling about it :)

My quotes blog moved this year from being  "DKquotes" on Wordpress, I moved it to its own domain and a more general name, "Excerpted", of which I am still glad for the broader appeal.  While I have struggled to figure out the right layout for the site, I have mostly hewed to an 11-post/per week schedule - one in the morning, Sunday-Friday, and one in the afternoon, Sunday-Thursday.  The content derives from excerpts I find of interest in whatever I am reading.

Lastly, the first blog to be spun off within the past year was my professional blog/site, which was something I had actually intended to do years previously, but only actually did in August.  I had been wanting to do so that there was a very clear delineation between my personal blogging and my professional blogging.  I wonder (but don't know) if this spinning-off of that blog was a catalyst (albeit delayed until after the birth of my third child) for deciding to not only split the personal blogging and professional blogging, but also my personal blogging from my impersonal blogging (resulting, initially, in Drew's Views).  

A big factor in the explosion in my blogging over the past year was realizing that there is only so much time in one's life and that I might as well try and go for it
, while another factor might actually be technological: with a tablet that has a keyboard (that I got last summer (the keyboard; the tablet I have had for two years)) that makes it easier on which to type than my laptop, it is so much easier to whip up content), which has helped me to embrace my identity as a blogger.  After all, I've now been blogging for nine years.

24 July 2014

A Special Place in My Memory: BBYO Programs at BBPC

Listening to participants presenting at ILTC 2012
Last June, I had a feeling of missing something in my life and I realized what it was.  For most of the previous summers, I had spent time at a B'nai B'rith Youth Organization (BBYO) summer program at B'nai B'rith Perlman Camp (BBPC).  Whether it was the special energy of the programs amongst the youth and staff, the summer weather of the mountains, or something else, having spent 8 of the previous 15 summers there, it had become a typical part of my life.
As a participant, I first spent a month in 1998, spending three weeks in BBYO's International Leadership Training Conference (ILTC) and a week at BBYO's International Convention (IC).  The following summer, I enjoyed a month at BBYO's International Kallah, going home for a few weeks and coming back for another week at IC.  In 2000, during my summer of graduation, I came for IC.
I did not stay away for long, as I came back two summers later, staying for seven weeks, staffing the whole summer as a cabin counselor (we were called "ad[ministrative] staff" back then (nowadays, the position is called "madrich"), for both Kallah and ILTC.  I returned the following year in 2003 in the same capacity.  I had decided to return these years while I was in college, yearning not only to pass along ideas, tips, and other such wisdom from my BBYO time as a participant to these up-and-coming BBYO members, but also to serve as a positive role model who was an observant Jew, which was quite uncommon around BBYO.  I finally came back for a third consecutive summer, although - due to not liking the director of Kallah (we did not get along well) - I served as an ad staff for two consecutive Chapter Leadership Training Conference (CLTC) sessions and then ILTC.
When I finished that summer ten years ago, I then headed off to New York City to begin my studies at Yeshivat Chovevei Torah Rabbinical School and was ready to move on.  And, indeed, I really had pretty much nothing further to do with BBYO (it also was in the pre-Facebook era, so people did not stay in touch the same way we do nowadays).
However, a friend's status update on Facebook a few years ago put out the word that BBYO was looking for Judaic Educators for their summer programs and I decided it would be nice to re-connect with my BBYO roots.  Having two children, I decided not to stay the whole summer and only work as one of two Judaic Educators for ILTC.  It was good, although not without its challenges.  I then decided to return in 2012 and it was good, with a good team of people committed to the Judaic curriculum.  In addition to sharing our Jewish heritage with these young Jewish leaders, it was also really great to share some morsels of my BBYO experience (which surprised many of the participants there that I had been in BBYO) with these up-and-coming BBYO leaders.
By last summer, with a third child on the way, and two at home, I realized I should remain with my wife and children, rather than going away for nearly three weeks in the middle of the summer.  So, I don't know if I will return to spend time at a BBYO summer leadership program, but I enjoyed my time not only with the people and the programs, but also the place.  There is just something special in the air and it will retain a special place in my mind when it comes to the summer.
[Some other posts of mine about BBYO]

23 July 2014

Unpleasant Experience at Adar Pizza

A couple of weeks ago, while in Las Vegas with my family, as I mentioned earlier, we visited a bunch of kosher restaurants and I sought out to write about all of them (and other kosher options) (see here for my series).  However, there were a few at which we were unable to have the time to sit down and eat, although I stopped by the three kosher restaurants to stop by and get a sense of them.  However, I had an unpleasant experience at one of them.
When I stopped into Adar Pizza, the woman behind the counter was on the phone and busy, so I simply told her that I just wanted to look at the menu, which she somehow did not understand, since she asked me if my order was to stay or to go.  So, I repeated myself and then she repeated herself, which I just stopped trying to inform her, since she was too busy to listen to me.  So, I looked at the menu, to get a sense of their offerings, even though I had eaten there several times before in previous visits to Las Vegas and took a picture of the menu to get a sense of their prices.  
While she was still on the phone, I began to walk out; as I opened the door, I also took a picture of the restaurant for the blog post about it and she yelled at me (suddenly, somehow, she was not too busy for me), saying that I needed permission to take a picture in her restaurant.  She then ordered me to come up to the counter in the front (even though I was on my way out), which - for some reason - I obliged.  She then got really upset that I had taken a picture without asking.  

So, I asked her if I could take pictures inside, which she refused.  Then I asked her if I could take a picture of the outside of her store, which she also refused (which is bizarre, since anyone walking along could take a picture of the outside).  She followed that up with a threat to take my camera away if I ever came back and took pictures. (Business owners: it might not be a good idea to threaten to steal customers' items if they visit you....)

That ruined the rest of my day - I was still shaken and upset about it. Sure, there may have been a language barrier between us, but why she got so mad at me, I do not know. We began coming up with different possibilities: she's paranoid, she did not want people seeing how not particularly visually aesthetically pleasing it was inside, she wanted to assert herself, etc. Who knows? Nevertheless, it was terribly upsetting and unnerved me for the rest of the day.
Look, I have enjoyed the pizza there in our previous visits and it's the closest kosher restaurant to the Las Vegas Strip; however, I seriously doubt that we will ever return there, considering how rudely I was treated there....

14 July 2014

Recent Trip to Las Vegas

Fountains at the Bellagio
Last week, I went with my family to Las Vegas, as we had done the previous summer, mainly for some family time.  And, yes, going to Las Vegas with children is a much different experience than without them. 
We super lucked-out with the weather, which was a very pleasant surprise! Whereas the previous summer, it had been over 100 degrees F every day all day and just hot, it was actually cool-ish in the mornings, which was very comfortable to go swimming, then to go walking around afterwards. The afternoons were hot, but it rained one afternoon! We really got lucky with the weather!

In addition to spending time as a family, I also used the trip to do a fair amount of writing about consumptive activities - primarily the kosher restaurants and beer places. I hope to post about these experiences, primarily (but not exclusively) on Matters of Interest.  So, stay tuned for forthcoming posts....

07 July 2014

Fourth Batch Brewed

For my fourth batch of beer that I brewed recently, I decided to once again use only 8oz of extra pale malt extract, as I had with my last batch. I decided, though to switch up the yeast to California Ale Yeast (White Labs WLP001), just as I had used for my first batch, since I was finding the last couple of batches with the Belgian Ale Yeast to be a bit too fruity for my tastes.  

For my hopping schedule, I kept it at my usual 90-minute schedule.  However, instead of using four different types of hops at 2oz each, I went with 4oz of one and two others of 2oz each:
90 minutes before end of boil 2oz Simcoe (13.0% Alpha Acid)
75 minutes before end of boil 1oz Summit (17.3% Alpha Acid)
60 minutes before end of boil 1oz Summit (17.3% Alpha Acid)
45 minutes before end of boil 1oz Galaxy (15.0% Alpha Acid)
30 minutes before end of boil 1oz Galaxy (15.0% Alpha Acid)
15 minutes before end of boil 1oz Simcoe (13.0% Alpha Acid)
At end of boil 1oz Simcoe (13.0% Alpha Acid)
Hopefully, this batch is an improvement....

03 July 2014

Closing One Blog Down and Launching Another

Over a half-year ago, I decided to move beyond this particular blog in my blogging activities and launched Drew's Views.  With that move, I consciously chose to make this blog my personal blog and Drew's Views my impersonal(/more public) blog.  I was greatly happy with my choice and my move to a more publicly-intended blog.  However, I realized I needed not only a new name for that blog, but also I had a slightly different vision for it.
I decided to close Drew's Views and move to a new blog
When I started Drew's Views, I thought it would be prudent to stick to a regularly-scheduled posting according to the days of the week: Miscellaneous Mondays, Talmud Tuesdays, Star Wars Wednesdays, Thematic Thursdays, and Foregoing Fridays.  However, as time went on, I spun out a new blog dedicated to Star Wars and, initially tried to provide a round-up of posts of my Star Wars blog posts, but ended up scrapping Star Wars Wednesdays altogether.  I also made Foregoing Fridays into Multifarious Fridays, since I found that having only one day (Monday) to be available for a variety of other content was insufficient.  
So, around the same time that I realized I would be scrapping that rigid schedule, I soon thereafter realized it was time for me to move on to a new blog.  While this move was largely prompted by the need for a name change, I also felt it was time for a new blog to be broader in scope.
So, after my six months blogging project of Drew's Views (a topical listing of all posts on that blog is available here), I am glad to have moved my impersonal blogging to Matters of Interest.

22 June 2014

Homebrew #3 - Eh, It's Better Than the Last One

My third homebrew
Over a month ago, I brewed my third batch of beer and was hoping for better beer than before.  After letting it ferment for two-and-a-half weeks, I then bottled it and waited. So, how was/is it?

Well, the good news is that it is drinkable - always a plus when it comes to beer (and especially homebrew!).  The second good news is that it is more drinkable than my second batch - not only more drinkable, but more sessionable, too.  I think the decrease in malt made it lighter, thank God, so it is not as much of a challenge to drink it - not because of the alcohol content, but because it is so dense of a beer.

Another facet that was also an improvement from the second brew was that the head/foaminess was not as crazy - there was still a plentiful amount of foaminess, but at least not a super crazy amount.

However, while I did decrease the malt content, I did keep the hops content roughly the same, but am largely unable to notice the hops.  I am not sure if this is because my palate has become accustomed to very noticeable hops or if it really is just not so hoppy. Also, I am not particularly pleased with the overall taste, but that could, perhaps, be attributed to the yeast, which made it quite fruity - perhaps too much for my liking.
There was less head on this brew than the last one

This lack of hoppiness, despite how much hops I put in, may be attributed to one of three issues upon which I need to work for the future: keeping a secure fermenting process.  For the last two brews, let's just say the fermentation was not done in such an air-tight manner. So, I will be going back to how I fermented the first batch.

Another issue is the process I utilize to transfer the beer from the fermentation bucket to the bottling bucket....

Anyways, I'm glad it's more drinkable than my previous batch and I am looking forward to trying to improve the process - and, of course, the product :)

15 June 2014

My First Press Pass?

Proudly displaying my first-ever press pass
Two weeks ago, I attended a comics convention with a press pass - my first ever!  I am very grateful that I was able to attend the 2014 Long Beach Comic Expo on account of it.  I did not simply attend - I ended up publishing a handful of posts about it.

Upon reflection, I wondered why - having been blogging for nearly nine years now - I had not applied for press passes in the past. I also wondered - having lived in New York City - why I had not tried to attend events on a press pass there.

While I am not quite sure the answers to these questions at this time, I did realize that I had attended an event in New York City that specifically invited bloggers seven years ago. I enjoyed the special access event and I still wonder why I had not tried to gain access to other such events.  Perhaps it was my focus then on my new marriage and working on rabbinical school (and focussing my efforts on training to become a rabbi).  Ah well.

The impetus for me to look into getting a press pass now - in addition to my having begun my new [impersonal] blog - was hearing that my brother-in-law had gotten a press pass for Comic-Con.  I could not believe it - the hardest comics convention to get into and he did - as a photographer! (The post-script is that he may actually go as an EMT.)

Anyways, I realized, if he can get in as a photographer, I should be able to get in as a blogger to some comics convention, so I applied to the Long Beach Comic Expo and was thrilled to get a press pass! Following on the heels of that success, I then applied for a press pass for WonderCon.  That was, however, not successful, but I attended it anyway - and wrote a post about it (and another one) - I figure the more I write about such events, the more likely it is that I could get access to them in the future.

However, I don't want to paint myself into a corner, only getting press passes to comics conventions - it is still a new thing to me.  Moreover, I find myself kind of an outsider to them - my interest in them is not on account of growing up with comics, but rather the Star Wars material.  Also, I tremendously enjoy the geek culture and approach (perhaps I'm a wannabe geek?).

Nevertheless, I would like to get into other such events/shows, etc. just not exclusively into comics conventions.  We'll see what the future brings - I am embracing my identity as a blogger and we'll see what comes of it :)

15 May 2014

When I Went on a Taglit-Birthright Israel Trip [Throwback Thursday]

At the Western Wall
Riding on a camel
Riding on a donkey
With my two tour guides

Overlooking the Sea of Galilee
With my upcoming trip to Israel to lead a Taglit-Birthright Israel trip, I realized I hadn't written about the trip on which I went.  In my first semester of college (fall of 2000), I heard about this trip from a friend of mine in Columbus and decided to go, filling out the application, etc.  After I found out I had been accepted, I shared my plans with my family that Thanksgiving.  Of course, they were concerned on many fronts, but not the least of which was the amount of terrorist attacks that were being committed by Arabs there, having only begun months before.

The primary reason I wanted to go on this trip and visit Israel (and a special bonus was that it was free, so I did not have to run it by my parents for much of a financial green-light) was that, in my journey towards greater Jewish involvement and observance, I had heard many people referencing specific places in Israel and I had no way of referencing them.  Even if I were to research them or look them up on a map, I still had no way of really connecting with them, aside from actually visiting Israel and getting a sense of what it was like. So, the primary reason I wanted to go was to connect with this piece of my heritage.

The trip on which I had decided to go was being led by NCSY and the rabbi who was the trip leader was Rabbi David Felsenthal, whom I had know from my time in Columbus, who is a jovial and kind rabbi.  Also, since it was being an Orthodox-run trip, it would be single-sex, so it was an entirely male trip, with no females, whatsoever.  

There was another interesting element to our trip: since the Second Intifada had started, there were many people who, due to the increasing amount of terrorist attacks, either decided not to go, or their parents decided for them not to go, so we ended up with a very small trip attendance.  We ended up with only 16 participants on our Birthright Israel trip, since everybody else had decided not to come on our trip.  This, of course, made for a much more intimate trip, with such a small number of participants.

Since the trip I attended was over 13 years ago, I sadly don't recall much about our trip. However, there are some aspects I do recall.  When I visited the Western Wall, I had expected to have an epiphanic emotional moment as I had heard so many people previously experience, yet I was sorely disappointed when I did not experience it.  Nevertheless, I was glad that I got to be there and visit it, myself.

Sitting on a tank at Latrun
One experience on the trip that was very impactful on me was meeting up with another trip to watch "The Long Way Home", with Rabbi Marvin Hier in the room. All along, we had been touring Israel, yet I did not understand what was so significant about the state of Israel and its importance.  However, watching this movie, I greatly understood that there was a tremendous need not only for the State of Israel to exist as a state for the Jews, but that it was a state for all of the displaced Jews; in other words, a state/land for all of these Jews who had no other place to go, but to their homeland.  Also, I had previously understood the State of Israel to be one entity and the Holocaust as a separate event.  However, this movie wove an interesting connection from the Holocaust to the establishing of the State of Israel - since then, it is hard for me to see them as unconnected.

At a waterfall at Ein Gedi
Aside from those particular moments, I know that I had a good experience and that I was able to get a sense of Israel from it and was very thankful that Taglit-Birthright Israel trips exist :)

13 May 2014

Third Time's a Charm?: Brewing Beer for the Third Time

Last night, I brewed beer for the third time (first time | second time). One thing I made sure was different from the first two batches was the amount of malt I put in.  Whereas I put in in 14 pounds of extra pale malt extract in the first two batches (and they came out too malty for my tastes (both in the first batch and in the second), I only put in 8 pounds this time - a huge difference!

One thing that stayed the same from the last batch was the yeast I put in - I used White Labs Abbey Ale Yeast (WLP530).

As for the hops schedule, here it is:
90minutes until the end of boiling - 1.5oz Summit (17.3% AAU)
75minutes until the end of boiling - 1.5oz El Dorado (15.7% AAU)
60minutes until the end of boiling - 1.5oz Amarillo (9.2% AAU)
45minutes until the end of boiling - 1oz Centennial (8.8% AAU)
30minutes until the end of boiling - 1oz Centennial (8.8% AAU)
End of boiling - .5oz Summit (17.3% AAU), .5oz El Dorado (15.7% AAU), .5oz Amarillo (9.2% AAU)
Now hoping for the best with this third batch....