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July 22nd, 2014 | Creative Pursuit

FORKS Book Tour ’14 — The Beginning.

Though it seems I started just a few days ago, I am amazed that I’ve been on the East Coast for 10 days. To be sure, I feel a bit stressed that I haven’t updated the blog and folks who’ve helped me in countless ways to get this ad-hoc and grass-roots tour off the ground.

IMG_5965Finding The Tour Van
First, the FORKS Van. So many readers of my blogs and backers of my Kickstarter campaign responded to my “shout out” for leads and referrals for finding an appropriate van that could not only handle a pallet of books — those of you who know, at 280 pages and a hardcover binding, FORKS weights in at just over 3 pounds per book — and my motorcycle (Doc) which clocks just north of 400 pounds. Thanks to and through the amazing resourcefulness and creative thinking of my good friend, and WorldRider Logistics Manager, John Angus, i was able to secure the van for a short-term “lease” through early next year to tour, promote and get FORKS into more hands and on more tables.

Rather than sourcing a van near my home in California, I chose to find one on the East Coast so I could save time and wear and tear. Finding the van was one challenge. Ensuring that it was solid and could handle the load and cross-country journey was another. Thanks to one of my best friends from high school (Darien, Connecticut), Lee Heidemann, when I found what looked like the right van, Lee went out of his way to inspect and verify that the van was solid and real. Thanks Lee!

Retrieving the Van and Outfitting it for the Tour

Rather than fall victim to airline excess weight and luggage gouging, I chose to advance ship book tour essentials to another good friend, Angel Fredricks, who also went out of her way to retrieve me from the airport, help me pick up the van and then, with her family (Paul and Casey) host me in their home before I began my journey to the first stop on the tour: Columbus, Ohio.

North Market Ohio Wine Festival

IMG_5975As can be expected, the grass roots FORKS Book Tour ’14 manifests in the spirit of the original and first WorldRider international journey: spontaneous and with little planning. While this can be frustrating at times, it also offers the opportunity to explore many possibilities. Thanks to friends, Columbus locals and Kickstarter backers Mike Rudd and Don “The Idea Guy” Snyder, we were able to take advantage of a last minute opportunity to appear over the course of the three-day event, now in its 13th year.

North Market in downtown Columbus is a collection of 36 independent merchants and artisans housed in a downtown building built in 1850. On weekends in the summer, local growers operate a farmers market outside.

 

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Inside North Market, Columbus, Ohio

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Parker of Brothers Drake Meadery shares Mead wine made with local honey and enhanced by local Ohio ingredients.

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John & Joel with DeBonne Vineyards can’t uncork enough wine
fast enough to serve the wanting crowds

On Friday night I assisted a couple local Ohio wineries, one is actually a “meadery”, Brothers Drake, and also DeBonne Vineyards as a celebrity guest wine-pourer. Saturday I set up a table and signed and sold books near the entrance, and Sunday I delivered a talk which afterwards a local merchant Abdul Aburmaieleh, the owner of Firdous, a Mediterranean restaurant in North Market, prepared one of the recipes from FORKS and together we served and shared it to those who attended by talk.

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Sheila, the marketing director and who championed bringing me to North Market,
was incredible helpful, professional and ran an incredible event.

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 Setting up my table and space at North Market

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Heather aka Ohio Girl Travels is a happy new reader of FORKS

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The tastiest and freshest Fattoush salad was served for all those who
attended my presentation at North Market Ohio Wine Festival 2014.

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Just like I did in Syria, everyone joining my presentation was served fattoush
from the same dish. Thanks to Abdul from Firdous the best mediterrenean restaurant in Columbus!

I was warmed by Abdul’s gracious generosity and his interest in my book. While he was excited to make the Syrian dish, fatuous salad, he doesn’t offer it on the menu at Firdous because, as he points out, it takes more preparation and due to the volume of business in North Market, he would not be able to keep up with demand. However, he told me that it is his wife’s favorite salad. Abdul is originally from Kuwait, grew up in Jordan and has family throughout the Middle East, including Syria. He moved to Columbus when he was 19 years old. When he arrived he didn’t speak English, and was lucky to get a job as a bus boy at Firdous. Some 20 years later, he bought the restaurant—where he had is first job as a young kid.

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Happy to finally meet D. Brent Miller of Sojourn Chronicles
and thanks to him for the photos here!

I was also greeted by another surpass guest, D. Brent Miller, a fellow writer/author, journalist, photographer and motorcyclist. From Cincinnati, a two-hour drive, Brent is well known in motorcycle circles for his popular Sojourn Chronicles blog as well as his writings in many magazines. The photos here are courtesy of Brent and both he and his wife, Lin, were able to taste the fattoush.

The best part of the North Market Ohio Wine Festival was this sharing of food and all eating off the same plate, the amazing salad that is forever imprinted in my memory after sharing it with new friends in a dirty gas station in Syria. You’ll have to read the Syrian chapter in FORKS—A Quest for Culture, Cuisine, and Connection for more on that story.

If that wasn’t enough, I was greeted by yet another Columbus connection and friend, Don Argento. Don is another writer journalist, and musician. In fact, he recently interviewed me for a story that will appear in the August 2014 issue of BMW ON — the magazine for the BMW Motorcycle Owners Association.

For a first stop on the FORKS Book Tour ’14 — Columbus was the perfect place—where I certainly found incredible culture, connections and cuisine.

Onward!

July 12th, 2014 | Creative Pursuit

FORKS on Tour 2014—Near You?

FORKS Tour Van at Loading Dock in Columbus with a pallet of FORKS loaded and ready for the tour!

FORKS Tour Van at Loading Dock in Columbus with a pallet of FORKS loaded and ready for the tour!

A quick update regarding my new book FORKS—A Quest for Culture, Cuisine, and Connection. Three Years. Five Continents. One Motorcycle.

As a small (let’s say tiny) independent publisher with no staff, but fortunate to have an amazing group of friends, volunteers, and others interested in helping me get FORKS on to more tables and more publicity (and sales), I’ve been able to start an ad-hoc and grass-roots book tour this week.

This summer I will be traveling all over the country and attending author events or participating as part of larger events or festivals and sharing FORKS through talks, demonstrations and book signings. All of these events are happening organically and on-the-fly. That means, if you have an idea, contact or otherwise know of a potential place where I could go and meet-and-greet and share FORKS, please share.

The schedule will change and I will post updates here on my blogs as well as on the WorldRider Facebook Page; please go and “like” it if you haven’t already. Also, I’ll be posting on Instagram often, so if you are on Instagram, please follow me.

Here’s what is what is scheduled to date (some locations i don’t have dates locked in but hope to soon).

July 11-13, 2014
Columbus, Ohio
Ohio Wine Festival @ North Market


ohio-wine-festival-north-marketThis started last night and I was celebrity guest where I helped two of the 21 local wineries participating pour wine for the local Ohio people in attendance. Today, I will have a table and sign books. On Sunday I am working with a local restaurant to demonstrate how to make one of the recipes in FORKS

July 20, 2014
Pittsburgh, Pennsyvania
Narcisi Winery & Restaurant

Just about 10 miles this local winery run by an Italian family is hosting an author event where I will meet and greet and sign books. The grounds of this winery are beautiful and will make for a beautiful Sunday afternoon setting for connecting with local Pittsburgh residents.

Dates to be confirmed. The following venues have agreed to host an event, we just need to coordinate logistics with dates and travel time—I’m driving the FORK Tour Van to all these cities. I have the motorcycle and cases of books loaded, it’s just a matter of driving distances and maximizing the time and making as many stops and appearances along the way.

Date to be confirmed
Detroit, Michigan
Green Dot Stables

Date to be confirmed
Charlotte, North Carlolina
Atherton Market

Date to be confirmed
McLean, Virginia
The Organic Butcher

Date to be confirmed
St. Louis, Missouri
The Royale, Food & Spirits

Will I see you this summer at any of these locations? Let me know!

There’s More.
Here are a list of cities I would LOVE to visit and coordinate an event if the timing makes sense. I have found in each of these cities a local who has helped me make contact with the venue and in many cases with the local media/press and bloggers. Key to these events, of course, is getting the word out.

So if you live near or know anyone in the following cities who might be interested in connecting me with a local business/venue to partner with, please let me know.

  • Asheville, North Carolina
  • Atlanta, Georgia
  • Nashville, Tennessee
  • Cincinnati, Ohio
  • Indianapolis, Indiana,
  • Chicago, Illinois
  • Madison, Wisconsin (already working on this, but thought I would throw it out here)

While I doubt I will be able to visit each of these cities, I hope to do as much as physically possible. So please shout out to me if you have an idea—even if from a city not on this list. These likely are driving to and from locations and there are places in between that would be fun to stop and visit. Again, think organic planning as long as logistics and distances make sense.

From these cities, the tour will head west. So there are other cities I would like to hit once I finish the eastern, central states.

So things are coming together quickly and with little time for formal planning, but thanks to everyone helping, the FORKS on Tour ’14 is happening.

Hope to see you this summer.

April 25th, 2014 | Creative Pursuit

FORKS On Tour: Looking for Help & A Sprinter Van

forks-allan-karl-cover-art-300dpiWith the bulk of the Kickstarter books shipped and the looming official release/publication date of FORKS (June 2, 2014) just around the corner, my focus is on a cross-country book tour. This would include book signings, readings and special events surrounding travel, food and motorcycles.

Planning and coordinating such a tour is a lot of work. Working with my press team, part of this will be coordinating media appearances and interviews along the way. I will also be speaking at a few events on the east coast this summer.

Here’s the idea and the need:

1) Wrap a Sprinter cargo van with dynamic graphics from the book

Flying to events all over the country will be costly. In many cases I would like to bring the motorcycle that I traveled around the world for all to see. I figure the best way to cart books, motorcycle and bundles of good energy and excitement is to find a used Sprinter Cargo Van (made by Mercedes but marketing by Dodge, Freightliner and Mercedes Benz). These are tall vehicles and are ideal to wrap with eye-stopping graphics. Plus, there is room inside for a motorcycle, books and even a sleeping bag, when needed.

Sprinter vans are not cheap either. But maybe you know someone looking to sell one for a good cause, or consider a short term rental/lease for the summer. Or maybe a sponsor who’d find a used van and I’d help promote as well.

Having the van to park near the book event locations will generate interest, and just traveling cross country with a moving billboard will raise awareness and interest.

Can You Help Me Source A Van

To be sure, I didn’t plan nor raise enough cash on Kickstarter to buy one of these vans, though I’ve considered this option but it requires much planning and 24/7 attention — I know, as I have done that and was fortunate to fund the printing for the actual book. So I thought that I might reach out to you to see if you knew the most economical way to get one of these vans to use for this summer’s national FORKS on Tour.

Do you have any connections at Dodge or Mercedes? Know someone looking to sell at a good price? Perhaps know a sponsor who would help me source one?

I will also need to find a company that can take my design and wrap the van with the graphics.

I thought I’d reach out to my Kickstarter supporters and the online community. I’m sure we can find a van that is clean and reliable.

Based on my research, I would like to find a van that is 2010 or newer, with less than 100,000 miles and is the shorter 144″ version of the Sprinter.

What Will It Look Like?
Here are some pictures so you can visualize what we’re thinking.

If you can help me find a Sprinter Van and wrap it, please let me know. You can write me through Kickstarter or with this form on the Forks Website

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2) FORKS Tour & Event Coordination

WorldRider_200x150Depending on timing and schedules, I would like to begin the FORKS On Tour in early June. I’m launching the retail general edition of FORKS at the BookExpo America (BEA ’14) in new York City at the end of May. I will hold events on the East Coast in early June and mid-Atlantic states in later June. I have at least one speaking arrangement in mid-July as well. From there I will continue to make the journey back to California for events on the West Coast in late summer and early Fall.

The best case scenario is to hold a signing and reading at an independent bookstore and/or a local café, bistro, gastro pub or wine bar. Even better, we have several recipes from FORKS that are easy and inexpensive to prepare and can be a fun addition to the event. I would speak, answer questions, and sign and sell books. We could involve local motorcycle dealerships as well.

While I cannot hit every city or town where people would like me to stop and visit, I will try to maximize the time. It will be important, of course, to coordinate media for exposure and to sell copies of FORKS.

Just looking at the big country wall map in my office, places I’d like to consider include Hartford, Boston, Philadelphia, Washington DC, Richmond, Asheville, Richmond, Atlanta, Nashville, Columbus, Detroit, Chicago and Madison — and so on.

If you live in or around these areas and have suggestions for locations or know somebody that would like to work on an event in June or July, please let me know my contacting me either through my Kickstarter page or via the form on the FORKS book website.

January 24th, 2014 | Culture, Good Juice, Travelogue

Exploring San Diego’s Burgeoning Brewery Scene In Style

Since migrating south of my former stomping grounds in Orange County to North County San Diego, I have slowly been discovering the wonders of San Diego’s culinary opportunities and more recently its exciting local and craft brewery scene. Taking the concept of designating a capable driver to a higher level, I was quick to agree to wander the city’s beer taps with other like-minded food and travel bloggers via a cushy and extremely stretched black limousine courtesy of Aall in Limo (858-336-1834).food-travel-bloggers-san-diego-limousine

aall-in-limo-san-diego-logoThe limo was fitted with the usual luxuries of a state-of-the-art sound system, spacious and comfortable seats, and a stocked bar, including a chilled bottle of bubbly which I, along with my new blogger friends (Katherine Belarmino, Carla King, Elaine J. Masters, Gina Douglas Tarnacki), and others, decided that should be the first beverage tasted before moving onto malt, barley and hops. Our limo driver James, formally dressed and knowledgeable about the San Diego brew scene was always quick to open our doors and ensure the comfort of his passengers.

I was amazed to learn that San Diego County is home to more than 50 breweries, and, beware ComiCon, the city had the honor of hosting the 2012 World Beer Cup — The “Olympics of Beer.”

It’s important to understand the distinction, according to the American Brewers Association (BA), of exactly what defines a craft brewery: craft-breweries are those that brew less than 6 million barrels (barrel = 31 gallons) of beer annually. As of 2013, the BA counts more than 2,300 craft breweries doing business in the United States. The association further breaks down craft beer industry into four markets:

What Is A Craft Brewery?

Craft Breweries Must Brew brew no more than 6 million barrels annually. They are further broken down into these submarkets:

Microbrewery
Sells 75% of more of its beer off-site through wholesale distributors, direct to retailers as wholesaler, or direct retail)

Brewpub
Sells 25% of more of its beer on site

Contract Brewing Company
Brewery that doesn’t make its own beer, rather it hires another brewery to make it. These are more sales and marketing organizations than true breweries and focus on branding, packaging and distribution.

Regional Craft Brewery
An independent regional brewery “who has either an all malt flagship or has at least 50% of its volume in either all malt beers or in beers which use adjuncts to enhance rather than lighten flavor.”

It’s no secret that for the last several years I’ve furthered my education on adult beverages with a determined focus on wine, I cannot deny that my training for tasting began many years before and was a passionate advocate for the first-stage of our country’s craft-beer revolution in the early 1980′s with the founding of the first microbreweries in the country including New Albion Brewing which became Mendocino Brewing as well as the now much larger Anchor and Sierra Nevada Companies.

Mission Brewery

mission-brewery-san-diego-digital-tavernSo when James opened the door of our limo and guided us through the doors of Mission Brewery (1441 L Street, San Diego, CA 92101 (corner of 14th & L) 619-544-0555) our first San Diego brewery of the evening. Housed in an 120 year old classic brick warehouse that was once home to Wonder Bread. Though it has no heritage, Mission Brewery hold homage by adopting the name of one of San Diego’s first breweries which was founded in 1913 but shut down in 1919 thanks to prohibition.

Inside, Mission Brewery uses the warehouse space to advantage with high ceilings, galvanized metal accents, natural wood beams, exposed duct work and weathered concrete flooring. The bar runs nearly the length of the customer space. Mission usually offers a dozen different brews, so unless you know the beer and what you want, I suggest starting with a taster flight of 4 beers ($5.50). I chose the Mission Blonde, El Conquistador (an extra pale ale) and the Carrack (a red ale). While I tend to gravitate to lighter and less hoppy beer these days, I preferred the Red Ale over the blonde.

mission-brewery-san-diego-wonder-breadMission Brewery is a classic brewery and pub and they do not serve food. But on any given day you can be sure one of the country’s exciting food trucks will make an appearance. Due to the number of beers to taste and the diverse range of interests and experiences of my fellow bloggers, and the comfortable surroundings and friendly staff of Mission, we ended up staying longer than planned. That’s a good thing.

Yet soon James was ushering us back into the limousine and whisking us over the Coronado Bridge where we watched the lights of downtown San Diego and the Gas Lamp fade as we headed onto the island famous for its tony resort hotel and colorful Hollywood history.

Coronado Brewing Company

coronado-brewing-company-nightimeYet tucked into the neighborhood streets of Coronado Island, James guided us to the Coronado Brewing Company (170 Orange Avenue Coronado, CA 92118). Founded in 1996, it’s safe to say the Coronado Brewing Company (CBC) was ahead of its time and perhaps the first micro-brewery in the area. The Coronado location is quite a contrast from Mission with rich colorful interior that feels more like an upscale diner than a brewery.

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Like Mission, CBC offers a tasting flight of unique beers with even more unique names such as Blue Bridge Coffee Stout, Idiot IPA, Stupid Stout and Frog’s Breath IPA — watch the alcohol levels here as both the Stupid and Idiot push 9% ABV. Though I was skeptical, I had to try the Blue Bridge Coffee Stout, not only is it one of the less potent beers, it is rich, flavorful and even a bit light on the palate. Sadly the Coronado Golden Pilsner was not available the night we visited, I promise to return.

With so many beers to taste, we needed to sample the brew pub’s culinary faire, opting to try several appetizers including Calamari Strips (decent), the BrewMaster Pretzel (huge and yummy) and the Green Chile & Jalepeno Hummus (it was gone before I could try!).

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As one of the oldest and now fast growing breweries in San Diego, Coronado Brewery Company is now making its beer on the other side of the bridge in San Diego (1204 Knoxville Street San Diego CA 92110) where it also has a tasting room.

With great camaraderie and too much beer and food to taste, we soon found that our 4 hour trip was coming to an end. Though we only had a chance to visit two of San Diego’s 50 or so breweries, we all agreed that the time was well spent and we truly were able to experience part of the San Diego burgeoning brewery scene. We’ll be back to try more soon!

January 5th, 2014 | Culture

Ethiopian-Inspired and Infused Chicken Lentil Soup

Yum. Plate and serve

Yum. Plate and serve


Though I’ve prepared this soup in the heart of winter here in Southern California, my east-coast and northern US friends and readers will be quick to point out that the winter I’m experiencing here is barely comparable to the winter experienced elsewhere in the USA, Canada and the rest of the world. Nonetheless, we are experiencing temperatures in the low 40′s ( 4-5 degrees celsius) at night. For the first time in many years I’m experiencing cold or flu symptoms. My head is foggy, I’m sneezing and coughing and my throat is raw and sore.

Old school remedies in these situations call for, typically, classic chicken soup. Though I’ve often resorted to Tom Ka Gai, the Thai version of this healing dish, tonight I decided to fuse my world travels together, and cook a dish that, at once, is traditional and then is also international and inspired by my travels and cultural curiosity.

Whether or not it’s the middle of winter or you’re under the nasty verse of a head cold or worse, this is a hearty dish that can be enjoyed year round. And if you’re a vegetarian or vegan, simply swap out the chicken broth with veggie broth and leave out the chicken—it will still do the trick. Oh, key here is the Ethiopian spice mix known as berbere. You can certainly make your own berbere spice, but you can also find a version at your local Ethiopian Market, like we have here in San Diego (Awash Market & Ethiopian Restaurant 2884 El Cajon Blvd, San Diego, CA 92104) or you can order online at Amazon.Depending on your ambition, choose as you wish. I used the local market spice for my dish you see here.

Using more of the berbere spice mix will give it a bigger kick. Try and play with this wonderful traditional Ethiopian spice. I also use it for a rub on baked chicken.

Ingredients

1 tablespoon ghee or butter
1 medium brown onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 large carrot, diced into 1/2 inch pieces
2 stocks of celery, diced
1/2 red bell pepper, julienned
1 cup green lentils, rinsed
2 cups chicken stock, preferably low-sodium and organic
2 cups water, purified
2 teaspoons Ethiopian berbere spice mix (from your local market, Amazon,or make your own)
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh oregano
1/2 teaspoon pepper, freshly ground
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
1/2 teaspoon lemon pepper
2 cups cooked/roasted chicken, shredded (leftovers work great for this soup)
1 medium tomato, cored and diced
1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
Crusty bread to serve

Preparation

  • Place the ghee or butter in a large sauce pan over medium heat. When hot, add the onions and garlic and sauté until onions are translucent and softened, about 2-3 minutes.
  • Add 1/4 cup of the chicken stock, the carrots, celery and red bell pepper, increase the heat slightly, mix and continue to sauté another 5-7 minutes.
  • Stir in the lentils and pour over the remaining stock and water, add Berbere spice, cover and bring to boil.
  • Reduce heat, cover and simmer, stirring occasionally for 25 minutes, or until the lentils and carrots are tender.
  • Stir in oregano, pepper, garlic salt and lemon pepper, simmer uncovered for 25 minutes, stirring in the chicken, tomato and lemon juice in the last 5 minutes.
  • Ladle into soup bowls and serve with crusty bread.

Notes:
I cooked this with leftover chicken legs and thighs that I’d roasted the night before, trimming the seasoned skin and shredding the chicken from the bone. If you don’t have leftover chicken, simply bake a chicken or individual pieces in the oven ahead of time. Remove the skin and shred with your fingers.

If you like a bigger kick, add another teaspoon of the berbere spice mix.

If you are vegan or vegetarian, as noted above, simply substitute olive oil for the butter or gheee, vegetable broth for the chicken broth and leave out the chicken. It will still be delicious.

September 27th, 2013 | Inspiration, Social Media & Marketing, WorldRider

Around-the-world-motorcycle adventure comes to life in FORKS, the new book by WorldRider, Allan Karl–now on Kickstarter

FORKS: A Quest for Culture, Cuisine, amd Connection on Square Market

cover-FORKStheBook-Allan_Karl-300PXCulture. Cuisine. Connection. Karl turns to crowdfunding to help realize his vision for this book, which lets readers experience the world through fascinating stories, stunning photography, and tasty food from 35 different countries.

Rather than compromise his vision by using traditional publishers, who wanted to simplify his book, author Allan Karl decided to turn to crowdfunding for the printing of the first-edition. Beginning today, Allan Karl’s book, FORKS. A Quest for Culture, Cuisine, and Connection, is available for pre-order on Kickstarter.

The book brings to life a three-year global adventure in a unique oversized, full-color, hardcover book. FORKS. A Quest for Culture, Cuisine, and Connection— three more years in the making—incorporates more than 500 original color photographs and 40 recipes from all over the world to complement and enhance Karl’s stories of discovery and human connection.

“The best way to experience the world,” says Karl, “is to see it through photographs, to feel it through stories of connection and culture, and to taste it in the real local food.”

Along with the book, collector-edition postcards, photographic prints, personalized coaching sessions, and keynote speeches are some of the rewards that supporters can expect from pledging on Kickstarter. An intimate dinner party is another of Karl’s rewards. “I would love to travel to your home, help prepare meals from the book, and share more stories of adventure,” adds Karl. Rewards start at $10, and books can be pre-ordered for as little as $45.

For three years Karl rode his BMW GS motorcycle more than 60,000 miles over five continents, through 35 countries. As with any adventure there were highs and lows. While in Bolivia he crashed and broke his leg, in the Colombian jungle he was escorted to a remote waterfall at gunpoint, and the governments of Syria and Sudan had to be pleaded with for passage through their countries.

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FORKS: A Quest for Culture, Cuisine, amd Connection on Square Market

August 25th, 2013 | Good Juice, Marketing & Messages, Travelogue

Virginia Wine Country: Early Mountain Vineyards

The Best of Virginia Wine — Virginia Wine Country Keeps Getting Better

Early Mountain Vineyards, Virginia Wine Country, Madison Virginia Earlier this month my brother Jonathan and I had an opportunity to visit Early Mountain Vineyards in northwestern Virginia, a couple of hours from Washington, DC. Just a few years ago Jon introduced me to the burgeoning Virginia winemaking scene when we visited few of the other some 200 wineries that dot the region including Barboursville Vineyards, Horton Vineyards and others. I was impressed by both the wines and the tenacity of the vineyard owners and winemakers who, unlike their brethren in Napa Valley and other California wine regions, are challenged with inconsistent climate year after year. In California when winemakers complain about a bad year they tend to forget the string of the previous five great years. As the tasting room crew hustled to bring in cushions from the lounge chairs sitting on the terrace of the expansive tasting room and restaurant, dark billowing clouds moved in briskly and in a crash of thunder our beautiful day of sunshine in the Virginia wine country changed to pounding sheets of rain. At the corner of the tasting room bar, Early Mountain’s assistant winemaker Steve Monson contemplated this years harvest—which comes much earlier in Virginia than on the West coast.

Early Mountain Vineyards, Virginia Wine Country, Madison VirginiaWine tasting at Early Mountain Vineyards

Wine tasting at Early Mountain Vineyards is unlike perhaps other wineries in the area and perhaps most wineries in California and elsewhere. Instead of bellying up to the bar and trying to capture the attention of a “bartender” to get a pour of the next wine, visitors are prompted to choose from either four different flights or wines, or choose an ala carte sampling of their own desire. Once a decision is made, visitors are invited to sit at any of the tables, comfy club chairs or sofas and a server delivers the wine to the table—the entire flight. This means wine tasters can relax, taste and compare the wines side-by-side. Winemaker notes are provided, but if visitors have questions, servers and even the wineries sommelier is always available to provide more information on the vineyard, winemaking technique or even the owners of Early Mountain, who are Steve and Jean Case. Steve Case was the founder of AOL and the man behind one of the most controversial mergers in US history – AOL and Time-Warner. By the feel, food and hospitality at Early Mountain I assure you this is a winner and clearly a project of passion by the Cases.

Early Mountain Vineyards, Virginia Wine Country, Madison Virginia

Early Mountain Vineyards is not just about making and selling wine. Case understands that to heighten awareness, build credibility and highlight the areas unique viticultural features, it’s important to promote the Virginia wine country. It’s here that Early Mountain truly distinguishes itself from nearly any winery I’ve visited. Not only can visitors taste Early Mountain wines, but also wines from about a dozen other Virginia wineries. Early Mountain calls these alternative offerings “Best of Virginia” partnerships. These are not just different varietals, but many of these wines “compete” with each other. But here’s where Case understands wine even more. By highlighting different partner wineries visitors have a chance to taste differences in microclimates, soil and winemaking techniques. Visitors who have a good experience at Early Mountain will be encouraged to not only consider visiting other wineries in the region, but ideally be more open to choosing a Virginia label on restaurant wine lists.

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Early Mountain Vineyards, Virginia Wine Country, Madison Virginia

As noted, the tasting room is spacious and comfortable, with a large fireplace in the middle likening it to a ski lodge. There is even a basket of board games and toys for kids to play while the grownups enjoy food and wine. There is a modest kitchen that prepares tasty paninis, tapas, lamb tacos, and other small plates from mostly local Virginia sourced fresh ingredients. There’s a small and understated retail area that doesn’t get in the way nor make you feel like everything is for sale, but it too focuses on locally produced products and therefore reinforcing the importance of promoting the region.

Early Mountain Vineyards, Virginia Wine Country, Madison Virginia

An outdoor terrace looks out over the vineyards and the surrounding Blue Ridge foothills and a lower level features a large room perfect for special events. Early Mountain even offers a guest cottage for those looking for a getaway in the wine country.

Early Mountain Vineyards, Virginia Wine Country, Madison Virginia

 Small plates include locally made cheese and different types of Virginia ham.

We had a chance to taste not only the Early Mountain wines, but several of the partner wines as well. Here are just a few of the highlights:

2012 Early Mountain Vineyards Pinot Gris (323 cases) — crisp, clean and very aromatic with melon and tropical fruit flavors

2011 Early Mountain Vineyards Chardonnay (360 cases)- light, but wonderfully round with nice mouth feel with flavors of green apple, citrus and a hint of oak

2011 Early Mountain Vineyards Viognier — perhaps my favorite wine of the tasting, slightly flinty with depth and body and apricot and fig notes

2012 Early Mountain Vineyards Block 11, Petit Manseng — I never had domestic petit mensang before (many of the wines from France’s Languedoc are made or blended from this varietal), this Virginia Early Mountain Vineyard special bottling of Petit Manseng included about 30% Muscat, and was the most expressive and aromatic of all the white wines we tasted, good acidity and viscosity making for a wonderful mouthfeel and a great food wine.

2011 Barboursville Vineyards Cabernet Franc Reserve — a wonderful fruit forward wine from one of the oldest wineries in the region, flavors of ripe plum, dark cherry and strong but smooth tannins, evidence this wine can lay down for a few years.

  The team at Early Mountain Vineyards provided incredible service, attentiveness and yet were noninvasive and let us taste, nibble and discuss the wines as if we were sitting in our own home. If you happen to find yourself in Virginia stop in to Early Mountain Vineyards and say hi to Sally, Sarah and Chris — tell them Allan and Jonathan sent you, they’ll take good care of you.

Early Mountain Vineyards, Virginia Wine Country, Madison Virginia

Much of the wine produced at Early Mountain Vineyards is estate grown. New vines have been planted and production will increase as will diversity of the estate offerings.

Early Mountain Vineyards, Virginia Wine Country, Madison Virginia

Early Mountain Vineyards borrows from industrial manufacturing techniques with a overhead track that allows for more efficient and gentle winemaking.

Early Mountain Vineyards, Virginia Wine Country, Madison VirginiaAssistant winemaker Steve Monson shows Jonathan Karl the Early Mountain temperature controlled barrel room. “We’ve got room to grow.”

  early-mountain-vineyards-logo-dig-tavern Early Mountain Vineyards 6109 Wolftown-Hood Road Madison, VA 22727 540-948-9005

August 19th, 2013 | Creative Pursuit, WorldRider

Publishing countdown and pondering Egypt.

IMG_0002 - Version 2

I’ve been working more than three years on my new book. It’s been a much bigger project than I imagined. You see it’s much more than writing. Because I’ve decided to break the barriers and move past the borders of traditional publishing categories, producing the book has pushed me beyond my limits. Not so much outside my comfort zone, but well beyond my resources. I’m grateful I have such great and immensely talented friends who’ve been with me along the way, especially Michael Paff, Bonnie and Doug Toth, Tim Amos, Curt and Martha Van Inwegen, Angie Walters and my brother Jonathan. There are so many more, and over time I’ll bring each of you to the pages of this blog and in my book.

Status? We hoped that the book would be at the printer this month. But complications and the scope of work has us a tad behind schedule. But I received my first set of color proofs for a few of the chapters, and they look phenomenal. I’ve also received the final okay from Kickstarter to launch my first-ever Kickstarter campaign. I will probably launch later this week.

Later this week I’ll announce the full title of the book and provide you information on pre-ordering your copies through Kickstarter and sharing pages and the book cover.

white-desert-egypt-worldrider

Shot while I was riding the White Desert, part of the Sahara in Egypt

Egypt.

I feel funny combining the two topics in this post, yet I can’t rightly post something here without sharing a few thoughts about the craziness going on in Egypt. I have fond memories of my time in Egypt, and even though I found it frustrating dealing with its bureaucracy (importing the bike, mandatory travel in convoys and more), my travel through the country mark many of the highlights of my journey. I made quite a few friends and acquaintance with police and military. Some I still am in contact via email. I find it disturbing that the country is in chaos and whether you believe the recent takeover by the military is a coup or not, I find that the lack of a democratic process — even the blatant reversal of a supposed democratic process – and the ensuing violence and censorship worries me. Mostly, I’m worried about those friends and wish the best for them and hope they are safe and with family and loved ones.

I watch with curiosity and tears.

August 15th, 2013 | Creative Pursuit, Travelogue

Let Your Dog Piss At San Diego Airport. Freely.

If Your Dog Needs To Pee When You Are At The Airport, What Do You Do?

Full disclosure here. I don’t have a dog. I love dogs. I love cats a bit more. But I love all animals. No discrimination. Though I always find it funny when I see dog owners sporting a warm bag of recently harvested poop dangling from their fingers as they walk my neighborhood. Good neighbors, proper dog-owning decorum and the right thing. But I chuckle anyway.

san-diego-pet-relief1-smFor the past 3 1/2 years the San Diego International AirportLindbergh Field—has been a mess. Parking lots have been torn out, traffic escalated and enough orange cones to make a driver’s ed or DMV motorcycle tester jealous. The promise of San Diego (SAN) Airport management has been a modern terminal, two level access to arrivals and departures and — even better (HA!)—more shopping and retail. In fact, in reviewing the entire project, the best I could figure at its onset is that all this mess was simply to provide travelers with more retail and dining options.

So I was surprised to discover that the newly expanded terminal was nearly open when I headed to my Delta departure gate in late July. Returning almost two weeks later, I discovered more of the new terminal had been unveiled. With nary time to hustle to baggage claim, I had to stop in amazement when I noticed a doggie bathroom: “Pet Relief”

Yes, a place where your dog can piss in the midst of the hustle, bustle and retail and dining madness at the yet to be officially opened, but certainly expanded terminal at San Diego International Airport.

The new doggie bathroom is complete with faux grass — so much for hte green movement — and a faux fire extinguisher. Oh, and for you new puppy owners, no worries, you get a changing table.

I’m not joking.

Some might wish to raise a bag of poo and question the funding source for such extravagant and flagrant use of funds. But since I didn’t wander to close inside the pee and poop ridden doggie den, I can only question that just if, just a few miles from SAN, somewhere in the legendary home of the San Diego Padres baseball team, PETCO Park, that baseball fans might be afforded the same opportunity. Where do you let your dog pee when you’re at the ballpark? Or, could it be, that even at PETCO park, dogs are not allowed. Is PETCO behind the new doggie doo-doo (hold your nose) pit stop at San Diego Airport?

Do share.

Here’s proof of the new improvement, nearly four years in the making, at San Diego International Airport.

san-diego-pet-relief2

san-diego-pet-relief3

July 12th, 2013 | Creative Pursuit, Inspiration, Social Media & Marketing, Travelogue, WorldRider

A Gentle Nudge: Time To Write & Post An Update

I posted this also on my WorldRider site, so if you’re reading both blogs, just a heads up! I thought I’d keep readers who’ve been Digital Tavern fans and not necessarily the motorcyele adventure fans an update too. Because like my WorldRider site, I’ve been negligent in writing new content here on the Digital Tavern. I aim to get back to more regular writing once my new project (see below) comes to fruition. Thanks for your understanding.

 

doc-lonely-2013What’s it take to get a new post on the WorldRider blog website? While my local friends nudge me often, today I received a warm note and email from Rwanda. I met J. Marie while traveling through Kigali, the capital of Rwanda. He helped me sort out the paperwork and details required to visit the legendary Mountain Gorillas that make home in the northern jungles around the volcanos.

He expressed concern that not only had it been awhile since I posted, but that the WorldRider “Tracker” in the right sidebar was out of date. So thanks to J. Marie, I feel it’s time to a quick update and fix the tracker.

As many of your know, for the past three years I’ve been working on a new book. It’s been a project of passion and commitment. For two years I tried to convince traditional literary agents and publishers to take a chance on my book — which is a unique hybrid of a travel adventure memoir, photo book and cookbook. While many of these traditional publishing professionals responded well to my story, most tried to persuade me to abandon the complicated color “coffee table” style book I envisioned and stick to a more traditional book — black and white text with a color cover.

I didn’t want to compromise my vision and dream for a more interactive book that would better capture and share my experience traveling around the world. So I’ve decided to publish it myself.

I happy to say that the book is nearly ready thanks to the help and support of so many. You know who you are and I’m grateful and appreciate each of you, thank you.

Sometime later this month I will launch a Kickstarter campaign to pre-sell copies of the book and to raise funds for printing, publicity and a book tour. If you are unfamiliar with Kickstarter, take a quick look at the site. It’s a crowdfunding website for creative projects.

The tricky part of Kickstarter is setting a goal for funding. That is, I will set a goal of minimum amount of funds that I must raise for my book. People will pledge and have an opportunity to pre-order copies of the book, prints, postcards and other “rewards,” non unlike a PBS fundraising campaign. Except with Kickstarter, if I don’t receive enough “pledges” to meet my funding goal, I will not receive any of the funds/pledges. I must meet my goal or the Kickstarter funding campaign fails.

It will be important for me to get the word out to as many people as possible so I can increase the chance of meeting my funding goal. That’s where I hope you can help: spread the word through email, Facebook, Twitter and other social media. I’ve got the page set up, will shoot the video next week and go live the week after. I hope. If you want to look at the private preview page for the campaign, shoot me an email and I’ll send a link so you can learn more about the book and the campaign.

There will be a launch party, I hope on both the East and West Coasts, and this will be part of my campaign rewards.

I will share more information here and on my other websites as we get close to launching the campaign. I hope I can count on your support as we launch the book.

Once this book hits the “shelves” then maybe I can get away from the computer and back on my bike, which has been collecting more dust than miles these days!

Thank you.

gorylla-worldrider

December 21st, 2012 | Culture, Inspiration

Mother of All Lobbies, Please Stand Up: The Mother Lobby

drink-driving-maddOur Children Don’t Deserve To Die By The Wheels Of A Car Or The Bullets Of A Gun

There was a time not long ago where in most parts of our country it was openly accepted and commonplace to drink and drive—that is, it was not uncommon to find someone with an open container such as a beer, bloody Mary or bottle of booze in their hand.

“You want a roadie,” a host might’ve asked guests at a weekend party. I have vivid memories as a child experiencing this behavior in the small town in Southwestern Connecticut where I grew up. To say that this small town drinking was innocent or isolated to my small town would be a lie. Perhaps like many things in the shadier part of US history, socially acceptable drinking and driving is something we’d rather forget — like Jim Crow laws, McCarthy black lists, Japanese internment camps and others.

Alas, we can’t ignore the fact that as a society and in many parts of our country taking an alcoholic beverage on the road while driving was socially acceptable — this is not to say that drunk driving was acceptable — and certainly nobody would condone a “falling down drunk” from getting behind the wheel of an automobile, but who, with a drink in hand, was impaired (drunk) and who was not? In those days, I guess, judgement was up to the driver. Perhaps for the problem drinker, friends would rather try to hide keys than confront and try to prevent the drinker from getting behind the wheel — most often not successfully.

One weekend in 1980 Cari Lightner, a 13-year old girl living in Fair Oaks, California, left her home in a quiet residential neighborhood and started walking to a carnival held at her church just down the road. Cari never made it to the carnival. She was struck from behind by a drunk driver who had passed out and then came to after killing her. Cari was knocked out of her shoes and thrown 125 feet. Her body was so badly mutilated none of her organs could be donated. The driver, a multiple DUI offender, was out on bail for a hit-and-run drunk driving offense he committed just two days before he killed Cari.

MADD_largeCari’s mother, Ms. Candy Lightner channeled her grief from the tragic loss of her daughter and made it her mission to ensure no other mother would have grieve over the loss of a child by a drunk driver. So in the former bedroom of her daughter she started “Mothers Against Drunk Drivers” MADD. Later that fall she held a press conference in Washington DC that garnered national attention and soon mothers throughout America were setting up regional chapters of Mothers Against Drunk Drivers. This was at a time before 24-hour cable news networks (CNN started later that year), the internet, before blogs, and before the proliferation of social networks.

MADD gained incredible momentum and on a state-by-state basis, mothers across our country championed policy changes through increased awareness of drunk driving deaths. Just two years later anti-drunk driving laws had been passed in 24 states. By 1983, well over 100 new anti-drunk driving laws had passed. Funding for the fledging grassroots organization followed, including $100,000 from the Leavey Foundation. Thomas Leavey, one of the founders of Farmers Insurance, and his wife Dorothy had lost their daughter to a drunk driver years before. In 1981, the NHTSA awarded MADD a grant to start new chapters.

This momentum of this ad-hoc lobby of Mothers Against Drunk Drivers was so effective in creating awareness ad making social and policy change that less than 4 years later on July 17, 1984, President Ronald Reagan signed the Uniform Drinking Age Act

But beyond policy changes and new laws, awareness created by Ligthner’s group has contributed significantly to the reduction of alcohol-related traffic fatalities, which have dropped from 60% of all traffic deaths in 1982 to 31% in 2010. Even more, alcohol-related traffic fatalities per vehicle miles driven have also dropped dramatically, from 1.64 deaths per 100 million miles traveled in 1982 to 0.45 in 2006.**

What makes this story so interesting and inspiring is how in the bedroom of a drunk driving victim, concerned, grieving and angry mothers used the power of their numbers to create an organization that banded together and forever changed our nations attitude toward drinking and driving. This powerful lobby, The Mothers Lobby campaigned legislators who previously preferred to look the other way and combatted the powerful alcoholic beverage industry. Today, you’d be hard pressed to find party hosts offering guests a “roadie.” Even better, our children and roads are safer as a result.

emilie-parker

Emilie Parker, 05/12/06 – 12/14/12

On December 14, 2012 Adam Lanza, a 20-year old man from Newtown, Connecticut, used a gun to break into Sandy Hook Elementary School and during a dreadful and sickening shooting rampage that left 26 dead, blasted 11 rounds ammunition into Noah Pozner, a six-year old boy. You know the facts, eight boys and twelve girls, between six and seven years of age,and the six adults, all women, had their lives cut short, like Cari Lightner, at the hands of mad man with a deadly weapon.

Like most of us, upon learning of this latest mass and horrendous shooting, I was stupefied, tear-eyed and angry. My heart goes out to the families of the victims. I’m so sorry. Yet, like all of us, I find myself asking the same question, over and over. “Why?”

So today, the one week anniversary of the Newtown Massacre, after church bells rang and the nation grieved during its moment of silence, I am still asking “Why?”

How Many Guns Does One Household Need?

Why does anyone needs more than a couple guns, especially if the rationale is self-defense and a wish to stand tall next to the 2nd amendment. Why does anyone need a gun and ammunition technology that allows firing 200 or so rounds in just over 5 minutes? And why as parents are we so willing to jump in front of flying bullets to protect our children, but as politicians and constituents are we so afraid to step in front of The National Rifle Association (NRA).

Bushmaster_223_newtown-weaponI don’t have an axe to grind with gun owners, and to a degree I understand the sport of hunting, sport shooting and admiration of basic weapons. Plus, I believe that the majority of gun owners are responsible and prudent, and are asking the same question as me, “Why?”

Bullies & Extortionists

I do have an axe to grind, I guess, with pro-gun lobbyists and the marketing of murderous semi-automatic weapons, high-capacity magazines and an attitude that the only way to “stop a bad man with a gun is a good man with a gun.”

To be sure, I know I don’t stand alone in this perception of the multi-billion dollar NRA gun lobby, and how it steps well beyond the boundaries of prudence, decency and common sense with its manipulation and fear mongering. With its grading and publishing of our elected government representatives stances on gun issues, the NRA uses its 4 million strong individual members and its powerful industry players in a manner that’s not unlike extortion or bullying. Top that with the NRA’s history of ignorant or imbecilic responses to gun violence in the United States, the NRA seems to be an organization only interested in promoting and marketing guns and ammunition and thereby catering to the self-interest of its corporate donors and members, and uses its passionate membership to influence elected officials and policy. That’s why politicians, democrats and republicans alike, are so afraid of the NRA.

Granted, it will take much more than tougher gun laws to curb gun violence in the United States. It took a lot more than laws to curb drunk driving and change the attitude of millions of Americans with regards to drinking and driving. Things must change.

noah-pozner-newtown-jpg

Noah Pozner, 11/20/06 – 12/14/12

That’s where the “Mother Lobby” should exert its force. I guarantee there are millions more mothers than there are NRA members. With its strength in numbers, I’m confident that the “Mother Lobby”, a passionate and vocal group of parents who are tired of seeing the lives of our children cut short as a result of gun violence, can organize, attract funding and grants and ultimately have an enduring and positive impact on not only gun laws, but the national attitude with regards to the prevalence of these weapons in the towns and cities of America.

Let this by a rally, a call to action or plea for the Mothers (and fathers) of our children to stand up and against the NRA and make their voices and desires be heard. Politicians need to stop worrying about the national gun lobby and the NRA and instead start caring about and protecting the future of our children and our country.

I know that those 20 first graders who were riddled with more than 100 bullets from an assault weapon that should not have been available to a madman, did not die without reason. Let’s remember them, like we remember Cari Lightner, and make their deaths and those of every other child who died as a result of a gunshot, and in their memory move forward and do the right thing.

Mothers? Please! Join forces, organize and campaign. Let’s create “Mothers Against Guns” or an organization with the passion, gumption and success of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, and focus on the most basic of family values — that is, let’s keep our children alive — and exert pressure on the politicians, bureaucrats and self-interest businesses to change.

And do this in a way that the NRA will never know what hit them — certainly not a bullet from a military assault weapon.

We can do this.

grace-mcdonnel

Grace McDonnell, 11/04/05 – 12/14/12

In memory of those killed on 12/14/2012: Charlotte Bacon, F, born: 02/22/06 | Daniel Barden, M, born: 09/25/05 | Rachel Davino, F, born: 07/17/83 | Olivia Engel, F, born: 07/18/06 | Josephine Gay, F, born: 12/11/05 | Ana M. Marquez-Greene, F, born: 04/04/06 | Dylan Hockley, M, born: 03/08/06 | Dawn Hocksprung, F, born: 06/28/65 | Madeleine F. Hsu, F, born: 07/10/06 | Catherine V. Hubbard, F, born: 06/08/06 | Chase Kowalski, M, born: 10/31/05 | Jesse Lewis, M, born: 06/30/05 | James Mattioli, M, born: 03/22/06 | Grace McDonnell, F, born: 11/04/05 | Anne Marie Murphy, F, born: 07/25/60 | Emilie Parker, F, born: 05/12/06 | Jack Pinto, M, born: 05/06/06 | Noah Pozner, M, born: 11/20/06 | Caroline Previdi, F, born: 09/07/06 | Jessica Rekos, F, born: 05/10/06 | Avielle Richman, F, born: 10/17/06 | Lauren Russeau, F, born: 06/82 (exact date left off list) | Mary Sherlach, F, born: 02/11/56 | Victoria Soto, F, born: 11/04/85 | Benjamin Wheeler, M, born: 09/12/06 | Allison N. Wyatt, F, born: 07/03/06 and of Cari Lightner, F 9/5/66 — 5/3/80.


Notable and worth reading

Making Gun Control Happen

One activist warns of a tsunami of angry moms

When Gun Nuts Write Gun Laws, Nuts Have Guns

Rupert Murdoch calls for automatic weapons ban

The Latest Mass Shooting Occurred While NRA Officials Were Prepping To Go On Stage

 

**National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). 2010 Motor Vehicle Crashes: Overview. Traffic Safety Facts: Research Note. 2011 (December). DOT HS 811 552. Page 2, Table 3; National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Traffic Fatalities in 2010 Drop to Lowest Rate in Recorded History. NHTSA Press Release. April 1, 2011.

December 1st, 2012 | Marketing & Messages, Social Media & Marketing

Twitter Tip: Focus On Who You Follow, Not Who Follows You. Avoid TrueTwit.

The Stupidity of @TrueTwit Validation Service & Other Secrets To Responsible & Rewarding Social Media Interaction

Why You Should Focus On Who You Follow, Rather Than Who Follows You.

If you are an active or moderate Twitter user, you likely understand that for many the objective of your Twitter involvement is to share valuable content to an interested and engaging follower base. In addition, you also are likely interested in engaging with like-minded people who are also sharing valuable content and engaging in conversations with people who you find interesting, can learn from or can help. The essence of Twitter — and all of social networking — is engagement and conversation. This is a two-way street.

The beauty of Twitter and how it’s different than Facebook or LinkedIn, is that it’s an open community, yet it’s also flexible. That is, you don’t need to accept or approve new followers. If you wish to close your Twitter activity to only approved followers, there is an option to protect your tweets.

Another benefit and differentiator of Twitter is users have freedom of choice. That is, you get to choose which Tweets appear in your streams or feeds by choosing which Twitter users to follow. You likely follow those users who intrigue you, share common interests, work in the same industry or are colleagues, friends or other connections. In the same manner, users who find you interesting or intriguing can choose to follow you.

What I find annoying and incredibly foolish and short-sighted (read: downright stupid) are users that choose to use a follower validation service such as TrueTwit. These services require new followers to read an email, click a link and land on a page where they must complete a CAPTCHA-like form. Upon successful completion of this form, users are “allowed” access to the Twitter stream of the TrueTwit user.

Why I Will Ignore and Write You Off If You Use TrueTwit

While the concept of TrueTwit might have some merit, the idea is flawed for many reasons. According to its website, TrueTwit will verify people from robots, help avoid Twitter spam, and save time managing followers. In fact, TrueTwit by its very nature and its process is a Twitter Spammer, and by signing up for its service you are a spammer. Why? Because the TrueTwit validation notice comes to you as a Direct Message — and it’s direct messaging that TrueTwit is supposedly protecting users from.

The only way that Twitter users will get Twitter spam or be bothered by robots is if you choose to follow robots and spammers. Why would you follow robots and spammers? So why would anyone need to validate followers?

By forcing users who are truly intrigued, interested and who want to follow you through the laborious and silly step of validating them sends a clear message: “You worry me and I don’t trust you.”

So you see, the TrueTwit validation service targets and promotes poor Twitter behavior: the auto-following of anyone who follows you. The only way a Twitter user could be subject to spam is via Direct Messages (DM). The only way a user can send anyone a Direct Message is if they are following that user (spammer). So why would you be following a spammer, bot or anyone who doesn’t interest or intrigue you? And there lies the fault and stupidity of TrueTwit validation. And if notifications of new followers bothers you, it’s a simple setting you can turn off in your Twitter profile preferences. Keep in mind anyone can “mention” you in a Tweet; there is no requirement that you must follow someone to mention them. TrueTwit cannot protect users from “mention spam.”

If I find someone and choose to follow them and they then force me through this silly TrueTwit validation scheme, I ignore them. And there are many in the Twittersphere that will do the same. So if you desire to have followers that are interested and intrigued, the worse thing you can do is put them through TrueTwit validation. Here’s a suggestion, next time someone sends you a TrueTwit scheme, mention them in a tweet and include a link to this post.

So, instead of putting senseless energy into who follows you, the more productive use of that energy should be put into who you choose to follow. How should you do this. First, let me explain who you shouldn’t follow.

Four Flags That A Twitter User Is A Spammer

  1. The user has the standard Twitter “Egg” placeholder bio photo
  2. The user’s bio is blank or simply has a single link
  3. Tweet stream is blank or filled with non-sensical junk; nothing of interest
  4. Follow to follower ratio is unbalanced. If the user has a disproportionate (or none) followers to how many the user follows, run! Personally, my rule of thumb is anyone with more than a 4 to 1 Follow to Follower ratio is a suspect bot, spammer or other bad Twitter decorum.

But you already know this. Even the lightest Twitter user can quickly determine if a user is a spammer. By taking a few seconds to look at a Twitter profile, you can tell whether someone is a legitamate follower or not. Resorting to TrueTwit to do your work sends another clear message: you don’t care and you’re a spammer. Sorry, it’s true. And I’m not the only one who feels this way. A quick “google” will unleash a rash of rants by people taking shots at TrueTwit.

If you’re looking for help in just managing your Twitter follows and followers, there are a host of better services that won’t send a message that you’re a loser in the Twittersphere.

Five Tools To Help You Better Manage Your Twitter Follows & Followers

  1. TwitCleaner — This is a free service and will quickly run through all the people you are following and identify whether they are social, antisocial, spammers, robots or simply taking up space in the Twittersphere.
  2. Twitter Manager — this is an excellent iPhone/iPad app that provides not only follow and unfollow help, it analyzies the content of those you follow and lets you know if it’s interesting or otherwise
  3. Tweepi — helps you manage followers, follows, allows you to unfollow, manage lists and gain other insight on your followers and uniquely allows you to force others to unfollow you by accessing Twitter’s block function.
  4. TwitSweeper — this service automatically scans your Twitter followers and unfollows spammers; it will also notify you of suspected spammers and give you the option to continue to follow or not. A much more unobtrusive way to flush out spammy followers than TrueTwit.
  5. ManageFlitter — this is more of a full-service Twitter management tool, but it has powerful follow and unfollow features that will have you taking control of your followers easily.

So don’t fall victim to false promises and into the trap that will turn you into a spammer, avoid TrueTwit at all cost. Check out these other tools. But remember, focus more energy on who you follow, rather than wasting valuable time and resources on who follows you.

Looking for more info on tools to help you better manage your Social Media efforts? Check out my previous post on my clearcloud digital marketing blog “In case you missed it, check out my post on “Taming The Social Media Monster” — Seven Twitter & Social Media Management Power Tools Worth A Closer Look.

 

Follow allankarl and Digital_Tavern on Twitter (we promise not to force you to validate through TrueTwit!.

November 2nd, 2012 | Creative Pursuit, Culture, Inspiration

Live A More Rewarding, Successful And Happy Life

Chapter I — What you need to do to live a more rewarding life, one with success, happiness and contentment.


Ignore These If You Dare:

The Seven Tenets of Success, Prosperity, Happiness and A More Rewarding Life

“How can anyone keep up?”
I hear this or some version of “things move too fast” every day. It’s no wonder. Just a scant five or seven years ago we had a choice: to plug in, or to refrain. Today, most feel they don’t have a choice. We’ve grown new appendages in the name of “i” gadgets or other connected devices. The expectation for instant response or engagement whether through social media, texting, email, FaceTime, or whatever the connection-cuvee of the day is, creates intense anxiety. You know. At the same time You are both a victim and an instigator.

Even when you drive, right? Admit it. You’ve texted, emailed or read something on your device while driving. You’ve also seen the horrifying ads. You know, the ads that show the very last text message someone sent before they were taken to the hospital or morgue. Sad. Not surprisingly, a study by Car & Driver showed that texting while driving impaired drivers six-times more than those driving under the influence. The National Safety Council found that 28% of automobile accidents today are caused by texting and driving—more than drinking while driving. Where are “mothers against texting while driving?” Awareness is slow, but our addiction grows daily.

Even if you don’t text and drive, chances are you’ve been distracted or experienced separation anxiety from your device—perhaps during a meeting, dinner, conversation or even in bed. Does this make you happy? Increase your chances of greater success? I doubt it. When it comes to achieving a sustainable balance in life and increasing happiness living a successful and more rewarding life, I have some solid ideas and recommendations that I believe are essential for you to take to heart and start practicing today.

Make your choice, ignore them if you dare. Keep in mind, this isn’t a multiple choice list, either. No, you’ve got to heed, take action and do the things that make up these tenets. This will take you down the path to live a more rewarding life.

What do you need to do to live a more rewarding life?

1) Stay Curious.

Those who know me expected to see this at the top of my list. As a href=”http://www.allankarl.com” title=”Allan Karl professional keynote speaker and digital marketing strategist” target=”_blank”>professional speaker, this is the subject of one of my most popular keynote speeches. I hope you have a chance to hear me deliver it live some day. In the meantime, you can take this teaser to heart. To be curious isto be open. When we’re open we absorb and think more. Look at children, they are the ultimate role models for curiosity. We all started our lives motivated by satisfying our curiosities, but somewhere along the way most of us lost it. Reignite your life, be curious.

It’s curiosity that drives and leads transformation and innovation—in our personal lives and in business. Think about it, when we are curious we wonder, ask questions, explore and seek something new or an understanding of the unknown. Great leaders and innovators foster cultures of curiosity. Steve Jobs famously questioned the “normal” way of doing things and sought to transform business models and create innovative products by asking why and why not. I’d say he succeeded quite well.

At Thomson Reuters, the 150 year-old news and information company, CEO Devin Wenig has made curiosity an important part of Reuters’ organizational culture. With more than 27,000 employees in 100 countries, Wenig confides that “curiosity is an enormous determinant of organizational and individual success.” Wenig encourages his team and leaders to be curious and nimble. Stay curious and each day discover something new.

 

2) Trust.

Trust yourself and trust others. It’s unfortunate that we live in a society where action or inaction is often driven by fear. Whether this is fear of failure, strangers, sickness or disease, rejection or simply being afraid to try something new or different. When you learn to trust yourself and to listen to your gut—your intuition—you will see more possibilities and be open to opportunity.

Some may look at trust as belief or faith, regardless or your view, we also need to be trustworthy. Trust is a relationship and it is, in many ways, a transaction between a trustor and a trustee. As trustor, we need to take chances and accept risks—trust that “it’s ok.” As trustee, we must be trustworty. Failure to understand and accept these roles will result in a breakdown of the relationship or transaction and the loss of the opportunity to see possibilities.

Don’t be afraid. Trust and be trustworthy.

 

 

 

3) Be Kind To Strangers.

Be human and embrace humanity and its diversity. Too often we cocoon ourselves or hide behind virtual screens or walls. A key lesson I’ve learned after traveling to more than 60 countries and 48 of these United States, is that the beauty of humanity is found in the kindness of strangers. Keep your head up as you walk down a busy street, smile and say hello to strangers. If you notice someone who appears to be lost or confused, ask them if you can help.

Last Sunday while strolling through downtown Santa Barbara I watched an elderly couple, dressed in their Sunday best, walking toward me. The man, with cane in one hand, and in the other he tightly held he’s wife’s hand and guided her down the street. They weren’t moving too fast, but seemed to walking with purpose. Just as we were about to pass each other I said, “Good morning, how are you?” The woman, startled, looked up at me and with brief hesitation said, “Gee— oh, hi—thank you, good morning.” This brief encounter touched each of us in our own way. I turned back and watch them continue to walk—with purpose.

Another simple gesture you can do is address people by their name. We all like hearing the sound of our name, even if pronounced poorly. So if you’re at the grocery store, coffee shop, or auto service shop, if someone is wearing a name tag, address him or her by their name—and smile. Make someone’s day and it will make yours. Be kind to strangers—every day.

 

 

4) Embrace Change.

Often life will throw you a curve, upset your balance and push you outside your comfort zone. Most of the time these things come in the form of unexpected or unwanted change. This could be the loss of a job, a new job or position, an end to a relationship, new responsibilities or perhaps unforeseen circumstances affecting some sort of change. Yet, when “change happens” most of us would rather resist or complain about it, rather than face or accept the change.

As hard as it may be to handle for some, change allows us to grow, learn and move forward. There’s no benefit in dwelling on the past and looking back. Instead, we must train ourselves to accept change and look at it as an opportunity to take advantage of, rather than a problem to solve.

You can do this simply by embracing change and making it part of your daily life—notice I didn’t say “daily routine.” You see, routine is our enemy. When routine is upset by change, we tend to tense up, stress and worry while our attitude takes a u-turn south. So choose to change. Take a different route to work. Move the furniture around in your office, home or living room. Try a new restaurant or eat something you’ve never tried. Mix up your wardrobe or listen to new music. Make change your friend and embrace it with a huge bear hug. The next time you are faced with unexpected change, you’ll find opportunity and see the possibilities.

 

 

5) Travel.

Explore the world, or your own backyard. Those of us who have diverse and unique perspectives that come with an expanded worldview will find it easier to adapt, communicate and relate when it comes to solving problems, resolving conflict and recognizing opportunity. Travel not only relaxes and rests the soul and the mind, it stimulates thinking and widens our view. It gives us the perspective we need in order to have vision, to innovate and lead and to have compassion.

Sure, traveling abroad to experience and immerse ourselves into new and different cultures is perhaps the best way to expand your worldview, but often time and other constraints get in the way. No problem. Chances are you can experience and immerse yourself in different cultures in your own backyard— you can travel the world in your own city or somewhere nearby. Do it over a long weekend. The key is choosing—with purpose—the decision to wander, explore and discover. Our country is rich in diversity and the melting pot of cultures and people offers immense opportunity to meet people, eat food, hear music and experience art from virtually every country on our planet. So, with just a little effort you can find pockets and neighborhoods all over the country; each rich in culture and populated by hundreds or thousands of people from a a particular country.

For example, this summer I was caught up in the thrill and excitement of the Olympics, the bi-annual sporting event that offers a chance to expand our worldview by watching athletes from all over the world compete and play with each other. So, on a Sunday afternoon I made my way to east San Diego in search of Ethiopian food. My first stop was an Eritrean restaurant and after a delicious lunch, the owner suggested that I could find many of the ingredients needed to cook traditional Ethiopian were available at nearby market. So, at the Awash Ethiopian Restaurant and Market the owner took me in, shared coffee from freshly roasted Ethiopian beans, sweets, snacks and unique spices and products he imports from Ethiopia. The virtual swinging front door brought a cast of characters rich in culture from all over Ethiopia and east Africa. And it was there in that market and restaurant, sitting along side a dozen of Ethiopians, that we all cheered on Tiki Gelana, from Bekoji Ethiopia who took the gold and broke the world record in the women’s marathon. I felt like I was in Ethiopia, though I was only 30 miles from home.

Seek, as they say, and you shall find. But you need to choose to seek, to explore and discover. So travel the world or your own backyard and expand your worldview and live a more rewarding life.

 

 

6) Take Chances. Accept Risk.

There are no short cuts to success or happiness. Sure, you are in control and can affect your own outcome. But nobody goes anywhere by playing it safe. Whether you’re pursuing intellectual, physical, emotional or financial success, experience dictates that you must first fail. To fail means taking a risk and accepting the notion that in order to see and realize possibilities you will have to step outside your comfort zone—take a chance. We all need to push ourselves and we all need to be pushed. When we wallow and whine about our woes, we’re pathetic and miserable. When we’re bold, confident and accepting, we succeed. Which would you rather do?

What do you really want? Prosperity? To travel the world? To write? Perhaps you would like to go out with a particular man or woman? Not satisfied with your job or career? What will make you happy? So take a chance. Go for it. Be happy. Try. And try again. You will succeed, and you will be happy.

Take Charlie Trotter, the famous Chicago chef that for 25 years has arguably run one of the best restaurants in the country—the kind you need to book a table months in advance, even in this sluggish economy. His name—his brand—is likely worth millions. However, earlier this year he announced he was shutting down his restaurant! Why? Because he wanted to travel the world and then go back to school and pursue a graduate degree in philosophy. A risky move. He did it because that’s what he wants to do. Maybe YOU want to open a restaurant. Take a chance. Do what you want to do and be happy and succeed.

 

 

7) Smile.

This is the easiest thing on this list you can do right now to be happy and more successful. I hinted at this in #3 above, “be kind to strangers.” And though I’ve written about this before, it always bears repeating. When you smile you feel better and you make those around you feel better, too. When you feel better you have more energy and confidence. This will help and drive you to do good things, those things that will make you happy and successful.

Even better, when we smile we look better. I love watching people and often I will follow my own advice and change my environment by going to the local Starbucks to write, work and watch people. Sometimes I notice people who seemingly have put intense effort into picking out their wardrobe, with each piece and accessory meticuloulsy thought out—except often they seem to have forgotten to wear a smile. These people put in some 90 percent of the effort to try to look good, but without the smile they are not attractive. They seem preoccupied, impatient, pompous or even lost.

While a smile will certainly makes us look and feel better, it has even greater power. Quite often during the Q&A sessions at many of my keynote speeches, I’m asked about my travels around the world alone on a motorcycle, and if I carried a weapon. My answer is simple: yes. I still carry the it. The weapon I carry weighs nothing, costs nothing and can be used without training or ammunition. Let’s face it, a smile is the ultimate weapon. It can break down virtually any barrier, especially those of language, culture and political or governmental minutia.

 

Are you ready?

So there you have it. My seven tenets of a happy, successful and more rewarding life. You can start practicing today. If you prefer, start slow. But go through each of these with purpose and commitment. And get back to me, I’d love to learn and hear about your discoveries and experiences — those that will improve your perspective, expand your worldview, allow you to grow and live a more rewarding life.


This is Chapter I of a series of thoughts, ideas, actions and things we all need to do or be in order to live a more rewarding life. A successful and happy life. Please subscribe to updates to this blog so you don’t miss out on future chapters.
October 27th, 2012 | Culture, Inspiration

Invigorated. Alive. Wow.

The best facial in Carlsbad California at the best salon in carlsbad

Facial & Microdermabrasion Treatment at Entourage – The Best Salon in Carlsbad

As many of you know, as a professional keynote speaker my job when speaking from the platform is to inspire, motivate and encourage my audience to step outside their comfort zone, accept change, try something new and to not be afraid of anything—failure, rejection danger, traveling somewhere strange — you get the idea.

By the end of my keynote speech my audience should feel great, invigorated, alive and ready to tackle new challenges and overcome old obstacles. And given the feedback and my conversations with those members of the audience who decide to stick around and talk to me, they do.

And that makes me feel good: to have made a positive impact or impression on someone.

Today it was my turn.

So before you read on, please put your judgements, prejudicial feelings and gender expectations aside.

Today I had a facial. That’s right. I entered a salon, disrobed my shirt, laid down on a table and for over an hour a woman hovered above me and pampered my face and upper body. And I liked it, a lot.

Perhaps some of the male readers of my blog have taken the time to have a facial. But I suspect most haven’t. As for you women readers, most of you know exactly what I am talking about. So, for the benefit of those who haven’t and a reminder to men and women who’ve had facial, I’m going to gloat and share my experience. At the same time, I’m going to encourage—demand— you stop what you’re doing right now and schedule a facial treatment for yourself, a friend or loved one—now.

Sure, I’ve had a few facials over the years. But today I am happy to say I had the best facial treatment that I ever had. It was a very generous gift from a friend. I had my facial at Entourage Salon, and though I don’t frequent many salons, my experience today and the vibe I felt from customers and staff at this cozy spot in Carlsbad Village, just blocks from the ocean, I’m going to step out on a limb and make the bold claim that Entourage Salon is the best salon in Carlsbad, California.

Lisa greeted my in the lounge or lobby area and escorted me to the spa or relaxation room. As the only guy in the salon this morning, I whisked past women getting their nails or toes pampered, hair colored, shampooed or relaxing under driers while their new “do’s” processed.

Dimly lit and with the soothing sounds of pan flutes, chimes, delicate strums of guitars and runs of piano keys over breathy vocals set the mood. My esthetician, Lisa, after asking me to remove my shirt and any jewelry and to lie between the soft cotton sheets of the treatment table, exited the room so I could get comfortable.

Surrounding the table were several devices or machines including a massive magnifier, a vaporizer and among others a microdermabrasion machine. Once between the sheets, I closed my eyes and let the music begin to drift me toward a new place. I barely heard the “tap, tap” on the door, and with a whisper and a quiet shuffle Lisa put a round pillow under my knees, a warming towel under my neck and then stood above and examined my face.

She quickly observed my dry and damaged skin and outlined her morning treatment plan: a soft microdermabrasion, then an intensive hydration treatment, exfoliation and the usual poking and picking of clogged pores and extractions. I barely heard the low-frequency purr of the microdermabrasion machine, but could feel it doing its work; removing layers of dead skin while gently polishing my forehead, cheeks, chin and so on. Each time Lisa would move to a new area she’d softly whisper, “Wow, this is going to be so good for you.”

Entourage Salon Carlsbad Facial Uses Bioelements ProductsShe explained that even if I used moisturizing lotion on my face, it wouldn’t hydrate or moisturize because the layers of damaged or dead skin would block it. I supposed like trying to paint a surface that hasn’t been sanded, primed or otherwise prepared—the paint just won’t hold.

After the microderm treatment, she began applying various cleansers, creams, lotions, sprays and protectants on my face. With the introduction of each new product, she wrapped a warm towel around my face and ever-so-gently used it to rub and clean off the previous product, explaining in a whisper each time. I don’t know how many treatments she did, I lost count and nearly fell asleep as she massaged my face, forehead, nose and even gently rubbed and tugged on my ears. With the sound of pan pipes, flutes and piano wafting in the room, combined with gentle strokes of fingers on my face, I fell into a meditative state and wondered if my breathing turned into snoring.

While some of the product treatments, perhaps they are called “masks”,required extra time to sit on my face, absorb and do their work, Lisa would massage my hands, arms, shoulders. With each touch I continued to fall into that meditative state of bliss.

I know. You think I’m crazy. Right? Well, I’m not. You need to try this.

The session slowly ended with further arm massage and gentle sprays of a hydration product that slowly fell, like rain drops on my face.

And with a whisper, “Wow, your face feels amazing,” Lisa exited the room while telling me to take my time, “relax and enjoy,” she said.

My face does feel amazing. So much, that I was inspired to write this quick blog post. It feels open, alive and those women still getting pampered and primped at Entourage Salon in Carlsbad, all were happy to tell me that I was “radiating.”

Truth is, I feel great and I’m sold. I think of more than 100,000 miles of riding a motorcycle and plenty of those miles with my visor open and my face exposed to the wind, bugs, smog, dirt, dust and nasty exhaust and soot of diesel engines, and I’m sure that there was much more than dead skin blocking my face from moisture and hydration.

Don’t be afraid guys! Step outside your comfort zone. Go get a facial. Ladies? If you haven’t had a facial in some time, pick up the phone and make that appointment. I will do this again, sooner rather than later: spend time with Lisa, listen to hear soft whisper and let her take me to that new place and leave me feeling invigorated, alive and WOW, radiating.

If you live in Southern California, San Diego or will visit here soon, get your face over to Entourage Salon in Carlsbad By The Sea (I swear it’s the best salon in Carlsbad or even San Diego and certainly the best facial in Carlsbad) and spend some time with Lisa and the other girls and get invigorated.

Entourage Salon
530 Carlsbad Village Drive
Carlsbad, California
760.729.9000

ps. I just noticed that they are offering a free microdermabrasion treatment like I had with every facial through November.

August 2nd, 2012 | Creative Pursuit

Watching Syria’s War With Tears In My Eyes

Somehow I question the sincerity of the headline on this billboard, I took this photo in the summer of 2008.

What’s happening to Syria? To the people of Syria. My friends in Syria. I wonder. And I cry.

Why? Because Syria surprised me. Surprised me with thrilling and unexpected  joy—and filled me with wonder and curiosity.

That was then.

Though it seems like yesterday, it was about 4 years ago when I changed my plans, my route and my mind and ventured into Syria. What I thought would be a few day journey through the tiny and controversial country, turned into weeks of exploring back roads, medieval towns, historic mosques and of meeting people who went out of their way to introduce me to their country and whose hospitality, though not unusual to a world traveler, warmed my heart and opened my mind to, what I believed at the time, a world of Syrian possibilities. And opportunity.

 

 

My expectations back in 2008 were, at first, tempered, given the challenge and patience testing circumstances I endured at the border. I had no idea what to expect from or in Syria. It took me more than 24 hours of negotiating, commitment, confidence and a helluva lot of persistence at the border between Syria and Jordan, and though the rules were clear, they didn’t seem like they’d yield to my tenacity and break them, somehow I convinced Syrian immigration and customs to let me and my motorcycle into Syria.

Yet before I could escape the dusty outpost where truck drivers argue, families gather and women, hiding behind burkas take more than a step away from me when I walk by, curiosity aroused, the chief of the border post invited me to enjoy tea and shared with me, on a map he scribbled with a stick into the earth between his feet, the sites I should not miss while visiting Syria.

I remember that chief inspector, with his silver hair, rough features yet how his kind eyes made me feel welcome and that all the effort at the border was worth it.

And I wonder. I remember the gas station owner who wouldn’t let me pay for my gas and insisted I have tea and lunch inside the gas station. The man selling tamarind juice on the square in the new city in Aleppo. “You try, you try,” he said over and over again. When my face puckered from the bitter taste, he offered me a sweeter and more approachable alternative. And I wonder. I remember the young boy who latched onto me as I explored the citadel in the old city and wandered through the maze of colorful and aromatic souks, of Aleppo. And I wonder.

I wonder what is happening to a country that I often refer to as one of my favorite of the more than 50 countries I’ve visited over the years. Just a few short years ago, Syria sucked me in, seduced, satisfied and teased me like playful lover — like no other. Yet I wonder. What’s happened to Syria, my Syria; the Syria I remember, the friends.


In Aleppo at the modest restaurant where the staff sent me home with a bottle of Syrian wine and where I was asked to play a lute-like stringed instrument, the one that when I tried to make music just croaked, and that I’m sure grated on the ears and nerves of the other guests dining in the room. Yet they indulged me. And so my love affair with Syria, fresh at this time, barely a week, blossomed and was public.

Smitten and excited by the beauty and history of Aleppo, I opted out of travel to the historic dead cities of the east, only so I could be with the living, and the energy of the people of Aleppo—the people who, in so many ways, trusted me with the key to their city and offered sights, sounds and flavors. Though perhaps I didn’t know it at the time, they did this willingly and with intent, I can only guess, to seduce me further.

I wonder. What’s happened to Syria. My Syria. The Syria I remember.

Watching the nearly live video from the New York Times blog, the reality of the danger and destruction of Syria leaves nothing for the imaginations. Journalists for the most part have abandoned the city and try to report with an ear to the doors at the borders of Lebanon and Turkey. Yet where people, on both sides of the conflict, armed with video-capable cell phones are capturing the madness like no other conflict we’ve ever seen. These are not the eyes or camera of journalists. So it’s difficult to truly know or understand exactly what we’re watching. But that doesn’t matter. Because what we’re seeing is brutal—regardless of who is to blame.

To these eyes, world powers in a game of either cat and mouse or drawn out chess, approach the conflict barely at arm’s length. Russians. Americans. Iranians. Israelis. Turks. Lebanese. Today, it seems, that any shimmer of hope was dulled when Kofi Annan walked away from his ambitious role leading an envoy for peace. With tail tucked between legs as the retreat from Syria continues, the blood will continue to spill and the super powers and the UN will advance its own agendas while throwing caustic rhetoric and blame at Annan. They will continue to ignore the burning buildings and bodies and, as such, the question fogging my mind will remain unanswered. What’s happening to Syria. My Syria, the Syria I remember.
What happened to you, Syria? My Syria.

Hmmm. I also remember visiting Rwanda before arriving in Syria.

What’s happening?

July 22nd, 2012 | Creative Pursuit

Recipe testers needed for exciting new global cookbook. Interested?

From my cookbook, Jim Porter shot the amazing Brazilian Moqueca — a featured recipe and shown in the style of the photographs that we will feature for recipes in my upcoming book: Tasting Adventure: Around The World With Two Forks & A Knife

If you’ve been wondering why you haven’t seen many posts here on the Tavern or my WorldRider site, the explanation is easy: I’m overwhelmed — in a good way. Yet, to be honest, I could use some help. So if you, or someone you know might be able to help me, please let me know or pass this post/email on.

What’s Happening:

Next month I’m working with Orange County Food Photographer Jim Porter, assistant photographer and digital production legend Erika Stout and Food Stylist Lisa Meredith to shoot the final recipes for my upcoming book.

What I’m Looking For:

  • Recipe Testers - cook and taste recipes from around the world and provide feedback and input on your experience and results.
  • Recipe Tester Project Manager (work with testers and organize the information and feedback)
  • Props (dishes, flatware, accent pieces and textiles) from/representing various countries around the world (the sets for photos need to be as authentic as possible)
  • Prop manager — help me organize and source props — in many cases props will be borrowed and after the shoot returned
  • Kitchen/Studio Assistant/intern to work with Lisa, Jim and me in the kitchen and studio during the photo shoot

What You Get If You Help Me:

  • Your name in lights: as in bright lights in my book as a thank you
  • A hug
  • Wholesale price for cookbook upon publishing (if you want one!)
  • Invitation to the launch party (live music, celebrities and food!!)
  • Gratitude and thanks forever!!
  • There will be one or two special gifts (think door prizes) that will be given to names pulled from (like a hat) of all helpers — but I’ll pull them from a Potjie (a South African traditional cast-iron dutch-style over — which by the way I’m looking to borrow for the photo shoot)
  • Lots of attention on my blogs, Facebook and other social media (if you want)
  • I will give you a reference and recommendation, write a recommendation on linked in, and if it helps in your career pursuit, you can use the experience on your CV, resume or linked in resume and summary.
  • The great feeling that you were instrumental in helping bring this ambitious project to life!

How can you help:

Recipe Testing

I’m look for about 5-10 recipe testers to help out with — recipe testing. The book features some 50 recipes from all over the world. These are typically national dishes, comfort/street food and the dishes the locals eat.

The book will be about 200 pages and feature 30-40 photographs of the recipes combined with my travel photos from around the world and accented by short narratives from my experience in each country. Sometimes these will be about food, other times just about connecting with people and culture. After all, cooking, dining and food usually connects, bonds and brings people together. That’s what my book is about, and that’s much of what I learned and experienced after three years traveling alone around the world — on a motorcycle.

Recipe testers should have some culinary experience, be addicted to the Food Network, fascinated by ingredients and how things are made or simply be passionate about cooking and tasting. I will provide each tester with 3-6 recipes and ask you to cook them to the “T”, take photographs and a bit of rudimentary video (smart phone snaps and video ok) and get your honest opinion of the recipe and any recommendations that might improve it for a global palate — without losing the essence of the recipe’s origin, of course.

You’ll need time to prepare the recipes and in some cases you might have to buy a special ingredient or two. You should have experience in the kitchen and if you’ve had culinary training — even better.

I’d like to have the recipes testing completed by the end of August. That gives about 1 1/2 months — though there is some flexibility.

Recipe Tester Manager

I’m looking for someone who can keep in touch with the testers, organize the recipes, comments and provide communication between me and the testers. This would be via email over a two month period.

Props: From Central & South America, Africa, Middle East

I traveled to over 30 countries in North, Central, South America and Africa, Middle East and Europe. We are shooting simple sets accented by dishes, textiles, textures or ingredients/products from these countries. In order to be as authentic as possible I am hoping to find items that could be used for the dish for each country. My photographer has a studio full of dishes, glasses, cups etc., but in some cases there may be something that from one of these countries that can take the authenticity up a notch. I’d like to borrow these items and consider for the set. All items will be returned, or passed on — depending on the original owner.

Prop Manager

Looking for someone who can organize communication between all the people who will offer and provide / loan props for the shoot. If you live in Southern California and can go to the Studio (in Orange County) on occasion to organize props and work with me and photographer, even better and preferred, though not necessary.

Kitchen Assistant

Have you worked as a photographer assistant, sous chef, cook, or just love to be in the kitchen and a photo studio? Great. Maybe you can be an extra hand for us as our shoot schedule is very aggressive and we’ll need help pulling props, prepping ingredients, preparing surfaces and pulling ingredients and cleaning up. You would need to be available August 20-30th. The shoot will happen 4 days 21-25 and then another 4 days sometime in the following two weeks.

How Do You Get Started?

Let me know what you would like to do, how you can help and share any experience you have in those areas I’m seeking help. All you need to do is go here and fill out this simple form. Then I’ll be in touch with you real soon.

What’s Next?

We’ve already done some of the shots and production for the book. And if you want to see what it’s like in the studio of a food photography photo shoot, check out this gallery of snapshots during our recipe tasting and photo shoots.

Next week I will post more information regarding the props needed, so look for another notice coming soon. Meanwhile, I’ve posted a simple form that you can complete and send me to let me know your interest. I’m moving fast, so don’t wait too long!

Thanks again and I look forward to working with some of you and getting back up to date with all of you — through updates and some live streaming even during the photo shoot — we’ll see!

smiles,

Allan

 

PS. Fill out this form if you’re interested in helping me get this book through production this summer.

May 8th, 2012 | Creative Pursuit

Is FEAR replacing FREE as the most powerful motivator in advertising & marketing?

With my gift already packed, shipped and on its way to Mom for this weekend’s annual honor for those women that nurtured and raised us, I was surprised and put off by a marketing offer I received this week from big box warehouse giant, Costco. While the e-mail offer highlights “Mother’s Day Flowers with a full-width banner ad, the product that commands all the attention sits under a headline with bolts of lightning through it: “Be Prepared For The Unexpected.” While monster sized and excessive package quantities are not unusual for Costco, it seems that the warehouse giant and Goal Zero are over the top with this survival kit that includes “food for 4 people for 9 months.”

For the big weekend celebrating mothers Costco decides to market a 9-month survival kit? I can imagine the choice of “9-months” must be a hat-tip to mothers, but really?

The ad promoting this “emergency food storage supply” not only commands more ad real estate than anything else on the page, it suggests and positions the product as a an “Escape Power Kit”. Get this, it’s also referred to as a Chef’s Banquet—a full pallet of 36 buckets. Reading the copy as face value, it would appear that in suggesting its customers be prepared, Costco and its vendor partner defines the “unexpected” as an extended getaway or a 9 month escape for 4 people. Escape? Would you like to escape with a pallet of 36 buckets of survival food? Not me.

MAINSTREAM OR FRINGE?

First, the fact that such a product would be mass-marketed by a leading retailer is scary. I would expect something like this in a fringe publication or website. Have we as a society expressed so much fear—or are so afraid—that we look for products that would allow us to hole up for the better part of a year — just in case? Or, is Costco instilling fear in its customers by urging them to prepare for the inevitable apocalyptic disaster? I do know this, many chef friends would hardly call this product a banquet. Even if you a pregnant mother, do you need to cocoon with others for 9 months?

The more afraid we are, the more likely we will look for solutions to mitigate that fear. During my keynote speeches, I suggest to people in business and personal life, to step outside the comfort zone, take chances and trust—trust themselves and trust others. Fear is the blocker, the party -crasher and parade day storm. When we are afraid, we don’t take chances. We don’t grow, either.

Costco doesn’t care. They seem bent on preying on people’s worries, fears and insecurity. Look deeper into its recent email. Beyond that pallet sized survival kit, Costco throws another whammy: IDENTITY GUARD. That’s right, something else you need to worry about. This product not only targets those afraid someone might walk away with their identity, it throws another punch: “Find out what your creditor’s see.” For a retailer that succeeds by selling army-sized packages of toilet paper, ketchup, cleaning supplies and other products we don’t know we need until we find ourselves wandering aimlessly around warehouse racks while dodging forklifts, it is evident that Costco finds fear as a powerful sales tool. So, be careful!

FEAR OF FAILURE.

By marketing these products, the eighth largest retailer in the world, Costco shows it isn’t afraid to try. Costco is taking a chance with these fear-based products. Or does it know something more? Will these products be successful? Or, will Costco fail to reach its sales objectives? Hard to tell. One thing is sure, through its Mother’s Day week email blast, it seems Costco is trying its best to put the fear of god into its customers.

When was the last time you took a chance? Accepted risk? Or, were willing to fail? Fact is, those who are afraid to fail will wallow in some superficial feeling of success — only playing it safe as a method to guarantee that success. Failure is our best teacher. Fear is our worst enemy. Our comfort zone is something we all need to step out of and leave behind—often.

My friend and fellow speaker, Jeff Salz, PhD says in his book “The Way of Adventure” that greatness belongs to those who are unafraid to fail, mediocrity to those who insist on always succeeding.”

Success is measured by how many times you have fallen and failed and got up and tried again. Legendary basketball hall of gamer Michael Jordan says “I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career, I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

FLUSH YOURSELF OF FEAR.

What are your fears? Let’s try this: face them and embrace them. Take a moment and write down what you are afraid of on a physical piece of paper. Write as many things as you can. Now stand up and read them aloud. When you finish, tear up that piece of paper into as many little pieces as you can and flush them down the toilet. Now go try to do something you’ve never done, eat something you’ve never eaten or call a potential customer you’ve never talked to. It’ll be a lot easier now that you’ve flushed your fears away.

Do this again tomorrow.

March 28th, 2012 | Creative Pursuit

How Pink Slime Caught This Company On The Wrong Side of Social Media.

Why Beef Products, Inc. Was Blindsided By Jaime Olivier, ABC News, Social Media & The Pink Slime Epidemic

Today ABC News ran a follow up segment to its reporting on Beef Products, Inc.and the extra-lean ground beef product it markets, that Jaime Oliver coined as “Pink Slime.” Also today Beef Products Inc. (BPI), who had long been silent about the controversy stirred by Oliver on his ABC program Food_Revolution last April.

Butcher Shop in the Souk In Aleppo Syria

Butcher Shop in the Souk In Aleppo Syria. Would you have an issue purchasing beef products here? Photo by WorldRider

Pink Slime is a process invented by BPI that recovers and removes fat from trimmings and other parts of the cow. It does this by sending the trimmings through a centrifuge and then eliminates any chance of macrobiotic organisms existing such as e coli by treating it with an ammonia gas. Oliver in his charming British accent unleashes several profanities (which gets bleeped out for air on network television) when referring to the the resulting meat product, which gets added to extra-lean ground beef. Later he simply refers to it as Pink Slime.

To demonstrate his distaste for the product and process Oliver takes meat trimmings and pours household ammonia, complete with the skull and cross-bones on the label, onto the meat trimmings and then runs them through a meat grinder. Though he admits he doesn’t know the “formula” for the process, the demonstration is effective. In reality, however, the process used by BPI is 180 degrees from what Oliver espouses to his wide audience on national television. The demonstration is misleading and, in my opinion, unfair.

Though Oliver isn’t the first person to bring the world’s attention to BPI’s process and pink slime, but he’s certainly the most visible. The pink slime moniker was originally given to BPI’s beef by Gerald Zirnstein, a former U.S.D.A. microbiologist in a 2002 e-mail sent to his colleagues. Along with Oliver and with the help of social media and investigative reporting by ABC News, pressure mounted against  major grocery chains, fast food restaurants and schools to identify and label this beef, or stop selling it altogether. This intense pressure let to the top fast-food chains and and grocery stores to decide to stop carrying the product. This week the country’s two largest grocery chains, Kroger and Safeway, announced they would stop selling the beef and Wal-Mart & Sam’s Club will give consumers a choice — meat with or without pink slime. There will be a price difference.

So today in a national press conference, BFI announced that it will temporarily close 3 of the 4 plants that make the so-called “pink slime” and offer its employees full pay for 60 days. Afterward, it believes that consumers will be educated, have a better understanding of the product and then demand will return and it will call these employees back to work.

(Re) Acting Too Late: Classic Public Relations & Social Media Fiasco

Whether or not all the fuss over this treated beef is warranted or not, this case is a perfect example of a company that underestimated the power of social media and ignored the snowballing effect it had on public opinion and its business until it was too late.

At the press conference, Regina Rother, BPI owner and wife of pink slime process inventor, Eldon Roth said it was time the company fought back.  “We got to attack just the way it was generated [the awareness], and that is through that social media world,” Roth confided. “It is not a world I’m particularly familiar with,” she admitted. “I never thought I was going to have to. But it’s out there, it’s how it spread,” Roth realized. “There’s so much misinformation and all we can do is try to arm them with the facts, do it in a rational way, do it in a respectful way.”

As a major supplier of hamburger meat to the largest fast food chains and supermarkets, BPI should have mounted its attack and response long ago. Currently hundreds of jobs are at stake, and if you believe the latest media, the supply of ground beef will shrink and prices will rise.

It’s evident that BPI finally engaged the support of a PR firm and is working hard to dispel the negative perception that has grown since Oliver first poured household ammonia on meet trimmings nearly a year ago. For a company that has a stellar safety record in food processing and according to consumer and industry experts and watch associations, runs the cleanest plants in the business, it’s too bad that BPI didn’t see this coming.

This is a perfect case-study example of a business not prepared and nor engaged in social business and social media. I’m not sure if BPI will ever fully recover or if its employees will return to work any time soon. I do know that last April it should have started an integrated social media and PR program.

Seven Ways Social Media Messages Could Have Helped Beef Products Inc.— A Year Ago*

  1. YouTube. Establish a YouTube Channel and several layers of video content including:
    - Engaging fun video program series that is people oriented that focuses on product safety and health benefits of reducing fat content in meat
    - Produce a very basic science class exploration of its patented process that produces pink slime
    - Create a documentary film that enlists third-party experts from the fields of academia, science, industry and government
    - Reposition the name Pink Slime and rebrand it as enhanced or safety meat or something that focuses on the benefit (safe and healthy), not the process. (Note: BPI did create a YouTube channel but content to address the current crisis was first  posted_just_two_weeks_ago, or nearly a year after Oliver’s program aired on ABC.)BPI or industry insiders coined a rather unfriendly term for the product as “lean finely textured beef” (LFTB)
  2. Build Trust. Open Up. Extend a public and open invitation to Jaime Oliver, other culinary stars, the media and influential food bloggers to visit its factory. Focus on the safety benefits of its ammonia gas process and highlight chemical differences between it and what Jaime Oliver used and demonstrated. It’s likely that Oliver would not accept the invitation, but the opportunity to talk to bloggers, media and other highly visible chefs would have provided significant content to distribute through major social networks. Also, invite industry watch-guard groups, bring them to the factories, demonstrate the process. Build trust and be open.
  3. Take Chances. Challenge the experts. Since Oliver says pink slime is not beef, challenge scientists, chefs and others to test and compare. Drive interest through Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
  4. Be positive, not negative. Offensive, not defensive. Focus on positive messages. Safe meat is healthier meat. Over the past several years there have been a number of highly visible food recalls related to sanitary and other conditions. If true, focus on track record and compare against other industry recalls and bouts with bacteria including chicken, eggs and cheese—have processes developed by BPI help control potentially lethal problems stemming from Mad Cow disease, e coli, bird flu or others? If the safety record of BPI is clean and perfect, it must take this message and and use it as an advantage. Instead of defensive communications, it must remain positive and highlight consumer benefits.  Note: Just two months ago BPI posted its first video (that I can identify) on YouTube. It tried to address this message, but it ignored the Oliver problem and instead tried to focus on safety. This video was rather sterile, academic and not interesting or engaging.
  5. Blog. BPI should have used its own blog and blogs of key employees to communicate in a voice that it otherwise cannot use in traditional corporate PR — like its current campaign. It could have called attention to the inaccuracies, misinformation and the problems with the Oliver and ABC reporting. Through blog it could counter the effect of mounting public opinion without appearing defensive. It should have created micro sites to communicate key messages about the quality of the beef, health and safety messages and address any inaccuracies in reporting and opinion through fact checking and polling.
  6. Visible Commenting. It could have established a comment program allowing it to address false information and calling attention to content that propogates misinformation—blogs, YouTube videos and major media outlet websites.
  7. Engage Locals & Employees. Show that BPI is community focused and get them to admit that they work with BPI and know the process inside out and communicate the fact they feed their family and children Pink Slime enhanced meat without fear or worry.

Sure, this is all in hindsight. However, if BPI had its eyes and ears on social networks and observing the social media activity about its company, it would have spotted a trend and could have implemented a number of these social media tactics to counter the misinformation, negativity and barrage that has occurred.

Learn Crisis PR & Social Media From Apple

In other words, it could have attacked the problem inasmuch as Apple did with the mounting attack on workers, conditions and human rights violations that were lodged against it by Mike Daisy and in a series of articles in the New York Times.

 


Disclaimer. I am no expert on pink slime, BPI or the process invented by the company. The purpose of this post is to highlight classic errors made by a company caught in a crisis. Without a handle on social media, networks and its public affairs, BPI is suffering from its own communications negligence. Also, I have no opinion on BPI products. I haven’t had a hamburger or consumed ground beef in more than six months.

March 26th, 2012 | Inspiration

The Effortless Way To Improve Your Appearance, Your Success & Your Health

It’s so easy. It takes no effort. And it works. So why, you may ask, doesn’t everyone do it — all the time?

I’ll bet you’re not doing it right now as you read this post. So take a moment and stick with me. Turn off the phone, close your email, and smile. That’s right. Smile. Why, you ask? Why not?

This morning when I walked into my local Starbucks for that daily injection of caffeine, I stepped into the line of about 6 or 7 like-minded coffee fans. One of the Starbucks employees, who was busy tending to the hot breakfast sandwiches, she looked up at me and in that brief moment of familiarity and recognition and said, “Hi, wow—you are always smiling. Why are you so happy?” And though the sky was grey and with the slight drizzle dampening the tables and chairs outside, I said “because it’s an outstanding day.”

Her reaction caught me off guard for a moment, but it made me feel good. First, she recognized me as a regular customer. Then, my smile triggered her memory of me smiling. Perhaps she’s never seen me any other way. Because I do smile, a lot. Even when I have reasons to dwell on problems, conflict or disappointment, I find reasons to smile.

Too often we are guarded, fearful or simply too drawn into ourselves and our activity — and our iPhones — that our concentration prevents us from smiling or enjoying the simple pleasure of being. Some of are simply waiting for a push or external event to make us smile. While I walked into the supermarket next to Starbucks, I noticed a woman walking toward the entrance. Her head was buried into the iPhone that she clenched in her hand along with her purse. She looked slightly tense and moved with purpose. She wasn’t smiling. Then as she tapped the screen of her phone she smiled. At that moment she seemed relaxed and her pace of purpose changed to one of rhythm and cadence. That simple change, her smile, positively impacted her presence. Yet it was prompted by something she saw or read on her phone.

Smile. Imagine if we all smiled — all the time.

Sure, it’s a bit optimistic and many of you will say unrealistic, but it’s worth a try. Maybe you can do it 75% of the time. Think about it. Think and smile. How about 50%. If that woman and her phone was smiling before she looked at her iPhone, I’ll bet her reaction and the feeling she experienced from that visual would’ve been even more powerful — impactful.

Even better, when we smile at people — at strangers — we have a positive impact on them. Most often, if you smile at anyone, they will smile back. It’s contagious and natural. It works. When we smile, we feel better and we make others around us feel better too. When everyone is feeling better, it’s easier to work, to play and to be.

When I review photographs from my journeys around the world, while the impressive landscapes and natural beauty leave me in awe, it’s the photos of people — smiling — that moves me most. The beauty within and the essence of these subjects is defined by their smiles. Yet one must be open, available and smiling in order to capture such beauty and essence. Spreading smiles is easy because smiling is contagious. Try it.

     
 

In every way possible, smiling makes you and others feel and look better!Are you smiling yet? Still? Another reason to smile is for your health. Smiling is good for you because it actually lowers your blood pressure (the woman with the phone?). Smiling actually reduces levels of stress-inducing hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline and increases levels of endorphins, the primary mood-enhancing hormone. In his legendary TED talk, Ron Gutman, CEO of HealthTap, shows proof through example that people who smile live longer than those who do not.

A couple of years ago I was interviewed for a Podcast on my three-year journey around the world alone on a motorcycle. In this interview, as in many others, I am asked what kind of weapons I carried, or what tools were important. Check out my response in this short clip from the interview below — I think you’ll get it even more. If you want more, you can watch the full interview here.

So improve your health, your looks and appear more open and competent. Smile.

For the ladies, smiling attracts more attention than sparkly eyeshadow or manicured nails.

Follow Allan Karl on Twitter | Follow Ron Gutman on Twitter

March 23rd, 2012 | Marketing & Messages, Social Media & Marketing

Five Keys To Building A Social Media Plan & Strategy

Most Social Media Experts Don’t Know The Difference Between Tactics & Strategy

Social Media Planning, Strategy & CommitmentVery few businesses get it. More and more so-called social media experts don’t get it. Participation in social networks and the occasional social media contribution doesn’t make for making business social nor is it a substitute for understanding social business or the emerging (should I say ubiquitous) social community. That is, just because you’ve planted your stake in the ground and developed a Facebook business page, created a Twitter account and hired a “social media manager” doesn’t mean your business is social.

Things take time. Social media and understanding and using social networks requires more than just a tactical approach. Doing isn’t participating nor engaging. According to Forbes Magazine about 1%of business has optimized and leveraged social media strategically and optimized how it integrates into the organization.

How do you describe your social media and networking activities? Here’s Forbes breakout of businesses and how involved they are today in social business:

  • 60% – Ad Hoc
  • 30% – Awareness
  • 9% – Integrated
  • 1% – Optimized

There’s no question that social media and the social networks are changing the way we do business. And as Mark Fidelman noted in Forbes, “neither Rome nor a Social Business was Built In a Day.”

“We must first move towards a new business culture, informed by purpose, mission, objectives and the business environment, both economic and social. Realizing a new business culture requires a strategy.”

Before any company can impact or change culture, it needs to look at the basics. Much like business planning or home building, to optimize and ensure success you better have a plan and build a solid foundation. In this short video I share the basics: Five Keys To Building A Strong Social Media Strategy and Plan.

If you’re merely reacting or doing, it’s time to start thinking.

So for my digital marketing and social media tip of the week, I’m pleased to give you a basic overview of what you need to do to develop a strategy and plan so you can build a foundation that will help you build a socially optimized business.

 

Follow Allan Karl on Twitter  |  Follow Fidelman on Twitter

March 17th, 2012 | Creative Pursuit, Mac My Day

Sample photos from new New iPad 3: teaser of what’s next

Spring Flowers Come Alive With New iPad Camera & Retina Display

I’ve had my new iPad with its amazing retina display for a scant 12 hours. I’m working on a review complete with sample photos, video and content generated, edited and created on the iPad (read: no accessories or apps).

But this will consume most odd the weekend and then some. In the meantime, I thought I’d share with you a couple random photos shot with the new camera on the new iPad. Yet, I assure you that they won’t look as good as they do on this new retina display – unless you’re reading this on your new iPad.

Note: this entire quick post was created on the new iPad and using moly built in apps, save the WordPress app I’m using to post this blog.

Watch for more photos, video and commentary next week

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