I saw a bunch of people being interviewed, and I wondered what that was all about. Slinkr explained that people who agree to be interviewed get asked 5 questions, and they answer them in their blogs. I told slinkr I'd be open to this, so she's asked me 5 questions which I will answer below.
If anyone wishes to interview or be interviewed by me, just let me know.
1. What inspired you to start making wine? (And how is the green stuff coming along?)
I had heard stories at various times growing up about how my dad used to make his own wines. He would make wines out of various fruits he found in the tropics. He even told of one wine (I'm sure he said it was a marañon wine, wine from the fruit of the cashew) that would knock people out after two glasses. I always thought this was really neat...something I might like to try someday.
Recently my dad made a journal entry on his Xanga weblog in which he talked a little about his winemaking. At the time I was feeling very frustrated with the lack of fun in my life -- I was bogged down with research on XML database integration and with other coursework, with client demands in my web design, and with uninspiring work at my real job...combined with very little sleep -- and I felt I needed to do something fun and interesting. I felt the time was ripe to start a new hobby.
I searched online and found a few websites to point me in the right direction. One website, Jack Keller's winemaking website, was filled with useful information and recipes. With these sites as a guide, I bought the necessary tools for winemaking and the ingredients for my first wine and set to work.
It's been a lot of fun so far, and I've learned a little chemistry along the way as well. You can read more about my endeavor on my first LJ post. Last Monday I performed the next step in the process, that of siphoning the liquor from the primary fermentation container (a big plastic bucket) to the secondary fermentation container (a 5-gallon glass carboy), where it will sit sill for two months before I "rack" it (transfer it into another clean carboy). The whole process takes several months to produce a quality wine.
My dad thinks that I am being too complicated in my winemaking process. You see, winemaking can be as simple or as complex as you want to make it. Some people really complicate the process, making precise calculations at every step of the process and using expensive instruments. My dad occupies the other end of the spectrum. He says he would just throw the juice of some fruit into an airtight plastic bag with some bread yeast, wait a few weeks, and then drink it. This yields an alcoholic beverage of unpredictable quality. I occupy the middle ground. I take some basic precautions to sanitize with the right chemicals; I use wine yeast, which live longer in the fermentation process; I use two fermentation containers; and I use a hydrometer to approximate the final alcohol content of my wine. I'm a bit disappointed that he leaves so much to chance by shirking technique and failing to use the correct agents. I don't think I'm overcomplicating the process. I just want to make a drinkable product! And have fun doing so, of course....
I'm nervous, though, that I might have bungled this last step. I have no experience siphoning, and it turned out to be a messy process. The liquor did splash around a bit much, so it may have gotten over-aerated, which introduces the possibility that the wine will oxidize. The siphoning is supposed to be started by filling the hose with water and letting the water pull the liquor out of the primary into the secondary. This started okay, but due to my clumsiness the transfer stopped prematurely. I had to use my mouth to suck some liquor into the hose to restart the siphoning. The problem with this is that my mouth is not sterile. I swished it out a bit with vodka to sterilize it as best I could, but I'm sure bacteria were introduced to the liquor. I'll have no way of knowing for a while, though.
Other than that, everything looks good. The liquor is actually starting to smell like white wine and with time will clear to look like it, too...unless it oxidizes.
2. As a singer, what do you most want to perform that you haven't had a chance to do yet?
I've always said that there is one role that I want to sing before I give it up: Figaro in Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro. My strength as a singer isn't my voice, which is a passable instrument, but rather the extras I bring to the performance. I am a good comic actor with a decent sense of timing, and I have very nuanced interpretive skills. I feel that the role of Figaro best combines a very singable role with the slapstick comedy I do so well onstage and other interpretive needs.
3. What advice would you give to someone who was looking to set up their own business?
Oy vey! I'm not sure if I'm really qualified to answer this. I guess the best advice I can give is to have better business acumen than I possess!
My problem is that I feel that I have marketable skills, I do good work when I apply myself, and I am good at selling myself and my business. I am absolutely horrendous at money matters, though. Based on my experience with a certain client, with banks, and with the IRS, my advice to someone hoping to start a business is to do as much research as possible. Familiarize yourself with all the applicable tax laws, accounting systems, and types of business. If you can afford one, hire an accountant. Save all receipts and keep excellent records of everything related to income and expenses. Don't be afraid to spend money and take business losses in order to get your business started. And have realistic expectations about what you offer and who your prospective client base is.
4. How have your relationships with close friends from college changed since you left Amherst?
Some friends I thought I would keep in touch with have dropped off the map. Others I never thought I'd see again I see on a regular basis.
My best friend from college is still a very good friend, but he has managed to alienate a good number of my friends (and me, at times) with some of his pig-headed beliefs and remarks. (Y'all know who I'm talking about.)
Other friendships I've maintained since college have transformed and deepened as we've all grown as individuals. I am constantly learning new and interesting things about some of my friends, and I like to think that I throw a few interesting surprises their way occasionally. Of note, I am far more comfortable with who I am than I was in college, and I think that has allowed me a different level of intimacy with my friends than I had in college. I hope that, as my friends continue to see that I'm basically a decent guy despite all my faults, I can continue to deepen and increase the comfort and intimacy of these friendships.
5. At softball games, do you really yell things like "go Sputum" and if so is it hard to keep a straight face while you do?
I make no attempt to keep a straight face! I actually usually conjugate (is that the right term?) the name, shouting out, "Go Sputa!"
Anyone who has played sports with me knows that I am a wiseass and a notorious trash-talker. It's part of the fun. Yesterday, my star player, who is a huge Michael Jordan fan, swung and missed at the first pitch. I shouted out, "Yeah, you play baseball like Michael Jordan, too!" Everyone got very quiet, and he glared at me. He rifled the next pitch into left field for a double and scored a run a minute later. We all laughed about it.
I am ultra-competitive and really get into the game. But I never lose sight of the fact that it is "just a game," and so I try to be fair and encouraging and always try to inject a little humor into things. "Go Sputa" is one of the tamer things to come out of my mouth...when I'm not babbling inanities in a foreign (or sometimes made-up) language.
I hope this answers your questions. Again, everyone, feel free to ask me your own questions or to ask me to interview you.