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....

29 April 2014

Star Wars & Me

With my creation, last week, of the Star Wars Maven website, I felt that I probably needed to write about my Star Wars interest.
Growing up, I watched the original trilogy, which was conveniently recorded on VHS from television broadcasts (from USA Network?) (not the highest quality, by the way) and enjoyed them, as well as having an Ewok book of some sort.  That was that.
When the original trilogy was re-released (the special editions) in the mid-late 1990s, I was excited and went to see them in theaters, which was great - since it was not only on the big screen, but also a high visual quality.
When the prequel trilogy was released, I saw all of them in theaters on their first night of release (midnight for the first two and 3am for Episode III (the midnight showing was sold out - on the plus side, I arrived to school early immediately afterwards)), which was great.  By now, I still considered myself a run-of-the-mill fan.
Before the release of Episode III, I had also watched Star Wars: Clone Wars, which was quite enjoyable and a great narrative bridge between Episodes II and III.  When people watched episode III, I would tell people about this series to provide some background, but most people were merely interested in just the movies.
In the summer of my getting married, I had some free time and decided to watch everything else Star Wars there was: the Star Wars Holiday Special, the two other Endor movies, the Droids series, and the Ewoks series (all things now non-canonical).  I realized why these had not gotten as much attention, but at least I could claim that I had seen everything Star Wars.  It must have been my coming to understand that the Star Wars was bigger than merely just a couple of trilogies of movies and enjoying them.  I think there was also something about knowing a fair amount about them and sensing that I knew more about star wars than most people....
However, this was further enhanced when Star Wars Episode I came out in 3D in theaters and I was speaking with my fellow watchers about Star Wars Clone Wars bridging Episodes II and III, that I had to share it with them.  so, we had a Star Wars Clone Wars watching, accompanied by my serving up some cocktails to accompany the watching.  
Then, in June, I held a Boba-Fett watching party, which was good. I followed that up sharing my really edited down combined version of Episodes I & II in the fall.
What led, ultimately, to my creating Star Wars Maven was the birth of my third child and the realization that there's very little time to get things done and I could end up pushing off all of the things I want to do - so I created DrewsViews.info and decided to carve out a weekly posting for Star Wars. That was going well and enjoyably so, but I realized - in viewing other Star Wars blogs, that I enjoyed that it was just about Star Wars - that I needed to do that, too, and keep it just Star Wars.  So, this led me to spinning off the Star Wars Maven blog. This definitely affects what I will be doing for my Star Wars Wednesdays posts and, for the time being, I am going to experiment with, instead of leaving Wednesdays empty post-wise on Drew's Views, posting a summary post about Star Wars Maven posts....

07 April 2014

Second Batch of Beer [Evaluation/Criticisms]

My second batch of beer came out really foamy
The second batch of beer that I brewed has come out, thank God, drinkable, just as my first batch did.   However, that doesn't mean it's anything near as good as I hoped it would be.  For starters, it also came out really heavy, as had my first batch, which is largely because of how much malt extract I put in.  I was hoping that it would have a higher alcohol content due to the increased amount of malt, but it largely ended up being simply having a bigger body and heavier to drink.  Since I am not a fan of such big-bodied beers (although I am partial to Stone's Old Guardian Barleywine), I shouldn't have brewed so much malt.  This also made it fairly unsessionable, which is disappointing for a homebrew....
      Another issue with it, which is shockingly apparent as soon as one opens the bottle, was that it came out way too foamy.  My brother-in-law chalks it up to having a lot of the malt not having being consumed by the yeast in the fermentation bucket, so that when it was bottled and sugar was added, it got super foamy.
     Now that I've gotten through the bad points, let me say two good things about it: 1) the hoppiness was good. 2) There were some nice fruity flavors that came through, owing to the Belgian yeast I used. 
     Ah well, now I've got to try to get rid of my beer in the next week before Passover.  Following Passover, I will move on to, hopefully, advance my beer-making skills :)

19 March 2014

Back from TribeFest - There's So Much to Say

I just got back to Southern California from New Orleans, having attended the third-ever TribeFest, March 16-18.  Having attended the previous TribeFest and finding it be very energizing and enjoyable, I was excited to return to enjoy it.  

I had a nice time and it was really great to connect and to re-connect with a variety of some cool people in the Jewish world.  It was such a great experience and powerful.  I not only have a lot of thoughts about it, but I have a lot I am desiring to write concerning it.  

Thus, I plan on writing numerous pieces about thoughts, events, etc. from TribeFest, although most of these pieces will appear on Drew's Views.  Stay tuned....