Tuesday, June 23, 2009

SoFoBoMo '09 Done!

My SoFoBoMo book is done! Here's the link to my book on the SoFoBoMo website:

If that doesn't work, or if that website goes away sometime in the future, you can also download the PDF from my website here (6.3 MB).

Also, I've turned it into a Blurb book. The link to order the book is here.

The book design is very simple, but it's intended for my 4-year old son :-) I ended up using 39 different photos, and there are 18 subject pairs for him to guess. Some are pretty simple, but some will take some thought. Of course his second reading of the book will be no challenge at all. His mind is sharp and he remembers everything. He even tells me when I've accidentally skipped a page while reading him one of his other books.

For me, this wasn't really about producing a book. The process of shooting and editing was good practice. This has been a nice photo project and has given me experience in doing the photography work and making a final presentation from it.

Hopefully Henry will enjoy it. I would guess that this book will become well worn within just a few months and we'll probably have to order a new copy for Michael when he gets around to enjoying such a book.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The "Off" Period

Not much has been happening with my photography lately. I'm in an off period. That would account for the lack of posts here :-)

I can't explain it, but my photographic creativity and my desire to shoot has just abandoned me. It's been gone about two months now. It's not a stereotypical creative block, but rather a lack of creative drive and enthusiasm.

This happened about the same time last year. I spent about two months in a photographic lull, then all of a sudden it came back (and full-force too). I itched to get out with my camera again.

I think there are a lot of reasons behind this current lull, and I'm not going to get into the details now. I feel a great change in my photography is at hand.

This lull is inadvertently giving me a break. A break is sometimes needed to prevent burn-out and perhaps recharge the creative energies that have been spent (or over-spent).

Some years ago, I completely burned myself out of my LEGO hobby and hardly built anything for a long time. That was bad and I missed building with my bricks. What I needed was a break, but I didn't realize it at the time.

SoFoBoMo update
However, I am pushing forward with my SoFoBoMo project. Most of this work is just follow-through. I laid down the creative plans a while back and I'm now just fulfilling my visions.

I officially started May 24th. I'm planning on wrapping up the book and publishing a PDF sometime around the 20th or 21st of June. Stay tuned...

Beer Review 8

Wow, it's been almost a year since my last beer review. If you're new to following my blog, I offer simplistic reviews of better beer (or at least I used to).

My reviews are basic. I don't get into dissecting flavors and pulling out whacky, obscure tastes that the average person wouldn't care about. If you've ever read a beer or wine review that stated something like, "hints of fresh ground snot-grass seed on a warm summer day" along with the words aroma, palette, or bouquet and thought that sounded stupidly snobby, then you're right with me.

I'll definitely tell you if it tastes like ass or not. Not that I know what that tastes like, but I think it's safe to say that isn't very good, i.e. "I won't be buying that ever again".

First up, we have three from Avery Brewing Co.. I like their beers and have enjoyed trying the different varieties. One of my favorites from them is The Reverend (reviewed here, a hearty quadruple ale.

Kaiser (Imperial Oktoberfest Lager): Good, very good. This one has just a tiny bit of the heavy sweetness (the candy sugar heart as they describe it) found in The Reverend. Like a lot of breweries, each seems to have a signature flavor found in their offerings. I'm beginning to think that Avery's is this sweetness. It's darker, tastey (great, FULL taste), and just slightly hoppy.

Salvation (Belgian Strong Golden Ale): It's been so long since I tried this one. Best I can remember, it was pretty good. It's a lot lighter (taste and color) than The Reverend and the Kaiser in comparison. I'll have to try this one again someday.

Hog Heaven (Barleywine Style Ale): This beer was interestingly different. It's the hoppiest beer I've ever tasted (note that while I don't really get into the different flavor descriptions typically seen in the "snob" reviews, the "hoppy taste" is one strong, prevalent flavor found in some beers, and a good beer drinker should recognize it :-) ). That being said, the intense hoppy flavor is incredibly well done and smooth. I don't really like a strong hoppy taste in my beers, but this one does not leave your mouth in a bitter pucker. It's quite good. Their website describes it as having a "caramel candy-like malt finish". Sounds about right :-)

Saint Arnold is a local (Houston, TX) "craft" brewery. I've had a lot of their beers and have enjoyed most of them. I'm quite fond of wheat beers, so here ya go.

Texas Wheat: This has just a great, basic flavor. It's simple. It's good. Kinda like eating toast without the jam. It's not made with any spices, so it's completely different from other wheats (i.e. the citrusy ones like Sunshine (New Belgium) that go well with a slice of orange). It does not have a fruity taste. It's pretty good!

Allagash is another one of these small breweries like Avery that I'm seeing more and more here in the liquor stores. I first tried their Triple Reserve (Belgian Style Ale) last year and really enjoyed it (see review here).

Allagash White (Belgian wheat beer): Smooth. Very smooth and very good. Here is their own description of it: "Our interpretation of a traditional Belgian wheat beer, Allagash White is unique and truly refreshing. Brewed with a generous portion of wheat and our own special blend of spices, this beer is light and slightly cloudy in appearance, with a spicy aroma. Overall, it is a beer that is very drinkable and smooth any time of the year." Now that's a review I can read and understand, and after actually drinking it, I agree 100%. The bottle even has directions for proper pouring printed on the side!

Chimay Ale Grande Réserve (aka Chimay Blue): A hearty, typical strong Belgian monk-brewed ale. I can't really say much that distinguishes it from other beers of similar types (i.e. the liquid bread types, the doubles and triples) that I've had. But I really must try this again to fully appreciate it. It was good and worth getting again. (Chimay website)

Shiner is my favorite local brewery. They're celebrating their 100th anniversary this year.

Commemorator (Shiner): Dark, smooth, and not hoppy. But it's a different smoothness than their black lager. It's almost like a Belgian ale. This one is extremely good!

Hefeweizen (Shiner): Interestingly tart and citrusy. Slightly hoppy. Cloudy and light in appearance. It's pretty good, and is definitely a refreshing thrist-quencher if you really need a drink on a hot day.

The next beer, from Ommegang, was a wild pick from Specs. Just a guess to try something new. Came in a neat 4-pack.

Abbey Ale (Belgian Style Dubbel): The first sip stopped me for a second and my first thought was, "damn! this is good!". Seems like a lot of good flavors going on (yeh, maybe some obscure fruit, nut, or berry, but definitely no ass) that all wrap up to a fresh, full flavor. It's not too overpowering, and is one of the best doubles (dubbel) that I've had. Definitely in the "liquid bread" class, this beer is awesome. I've consumed two 4-packs now (not in the same weekend :-) ) and will definitely keep in high on my list.

And just for fun, here's a mini-keg of Oktoberfest (Paulaner). I've reviewed their Oktoberfest before (see here). It's good. All the Paulaner beers that I've had are quite good.

Unfortunately, the math doesn't work out so well with this mini-keg. It's only about a 10% advantage to buy this versus multiple 12-oz bottles. Plus, the keg isn't pressurized, so you have to drink it right away or it will go flat quickly. But, despite the marginal economics involved, having beer in a larger quantity usually means it tastes better. I guess it stays fresher longer or there's something about a larger volume that preserves the taste better.

Just for the record, I did share this keg. I didn't attempt to drink it by myself (although the thought crossed my mind :-) ).