05 July 2015

Posts of Quotes and Excerpts on This Blog Posted Prior to Splitting Off Separate Excerpts Website

While I post quotes that I find interesting to my Excerpted website (which I created last year, but I have been doing since 2011), I realized I had never pulled together the various posts of mine that featured quotes or excerpts.  While I am tempted to, at some point, include the quotes and excerpts from within the following posts and put them onto Excerpted, nevertheless, they are listed below in reverse chronological order:

While these are primarily the posts of quotes and excerpts, it should be noted that there are numerous posts that feature quotes from Hebrew texts, although perhaps that might warrant an entirely separate post.  Also, most of these quotes/excerpts occurred after the first couple years of this blog, picking up in the following years, which helped serve as a catalyst for me to consider spinning off a separate blog dedicated to quotes of interest.  One thing about which I was leery was just putting quotes on this blog and not other substantive matters.  Ultimately, I decided to create that separate blog.

28 June 2015

Becoming a Tea Drinker?

Holding a cup of Earl Grey tea at World Tea Expo 2015

Before going to last month's World Tea Expo, I had maybe consumed a handful of teas in my life, certainly no more than a dozen. And I didn't particularly care for them.
However, while at the World Tea Expo, I had teas, then more teas, and even still more teas. And, lo and behold, I began to like them!
Yes, I had been a coffee drinker, although teas are of a different character.  While coffee seems to confront its drinker with a fuller and more aggressive mouth experience, tea seems to me to more subtle.  Yes, I still drink coffee and am not planning on giving it up.  However, I have begun not only to like tea, but also drink it instead of coffee at times.  
It is not only the subtler taste that appeals to me at times, but also the way that I have experienced the caffeine's effects.  Yes, there are teas with less caffeine, but for those with caffeine - such as two of my current favorites, Earl Grey and Darjeeling (first or second flush) - I have enjoyed the way that they help me focus more cerebrally than does the caffeine with coffee.
This one-two punch of a more subtle taste as well as a more enjoyable effect of caffeine has caused me to become someone who now likes to drink tea.

21 June 2015

Becoming a Beverage Blogger?

While covering the World Tea Expo last month, I frequently encountered the common question of "What do you write about?"  For those of us with press passes at the World Tea Expo, the badges listed our publication, and while many people there with press passes were there covering the event for tea blogs or other publications, mine simply stated "Matters of Interest Blog" listed on my press pass.  

After trying to say that I write about local events in Long Beach, such as the World Tea Expo, I have covered other events such as the Long Beach Comic Con, US Coffee Championships, and more. I also began to realize that I do a fair amount of writing about beer and whiskey, that I've written about wine, and that I had written about coffee at the US Coffee Championships. With that realization, in addition to covering local events, I said, "I write about beverages."  Perhaps, in other words, I could say that I am a beverage blogger, right?
It worked.  Rather than trying to describe all the various topics about which I write at Matters of Interest, answering their question with "I'm a beverage blogger", they nodded and seemed to be content with that answer.

It is an interesting proposition to categorize myself with such a description, though.  It is not as if I set out to become a beverage blogger or even write a lot about beverages.  However, I realized that, due to kashrut, most foods and restaurants are off-limits for my experiencing (although I do write about kosher-certified restaurants), whereas many beverages are not. Yes, most wines aren't certified kosher, so they're out, as are many liqueurs that have wine in them (and, by extension, cocktails), but coffee, tea, and many beverages with alcohol are okay. So, I've written about them.

Of course, assessing those things which I have consumed gustatorily are not the only matters that I consider at Matters of Interest, but I am realizing that they are not an insignificant segment of my material.  So, perhaps I need to consider that beverage blogging is something that I do and part of my [writing] identity.

14 June 2015

How I Began Drinking Coffee Four Years Ago

While I am now a fairly regular drinker of coffee, this was certainly not always the case.  In fact, I only began drinking coffee four years ago.  I never drank coffee in high school, I never drank coffee in college, and I never drank coffee in rabbinical school.  However, all it takes is the right circumstances.

When I moved out to Southern California a little over five and a half years ago, I found myself frequently meeting people in coffee shops, so I felt obligated to drink something.  Initially that something was hot chocolate, which was seasonally appropriate, since it was the winter.  However, when the winter warmed up, I wanted to drink something different, so I went with ice blended drinks (okay, it was primarily at stores of Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, which have very tasty iced blended drinks, which are sweet).  Somehow, I eventually moved on to drinking lattes, which were the closest I came to actually drinking coffee.
Outside of coffee shops, I would normally get my fix of caffeine through either Diet Coke (or similar drinks) or energy drinks, which had a generous amount of caffeine.  However, when I was out of my element four summers ago, I turned over a new leaf in my caffeine consumption.
While staffing BBYO's International Leadership Training conference four summers ago at B'nai B'rith Perlman Camp, I did not have access to my typical caffeine sources - no lattes, no Diet Coke (okay, some, but how much Diet Coke was I going to consume?), and no energy drinks - what was I to do? After nearly a week, I knew I needed to do something, so having seen a pot of coffee in the staff lounge, I figured I would try some.  With some Splenda added, it wasn't terrible.  I then began consuming coffee regularly both there, in the staff lounge, as well as in the dining hall (which was not as good as that of the staff lounge, but it wasn't bad).
Upon my return to Southern California, I tried drinking lattes again, but found them to be too heavy for me to drink, whereas coffees were not.  In addition to finding coffees lighter and easier to drink than lattes, I also enjoyed that they were minimally caloric, versus the hundreds of calories that came with lattes (or iced blendeds).  Thus began my drinking of coffee regularly - thanks to being outside of my normal circumstances.

07 June 2015

6th Press Pass: World Tea Expo 2015

At World Tea Expo 2015 on my 6th press pass
With the World Tea Expo taking place in Long Beach last month, I figured it would be a great opportunity to learn about teas. Yes, that's right: learn about teas.  As someone who has had very little tea in one's life, I was nevertheless curious to experience and learn about tea.  Fortunately, I was able to secure a press pass to attend the World Tea Expo, which made it my sixth press pass, having received three in 2014 and my third press pass of 2015 (as well as my third press pass not at a comic convention, along with the LA Travel and Adventure Show and US Coffee Championships).

Teas available for tasting by Teas, etc on the first morning
The first morning, I was only able to be there for a couple of hours, so I was able to start off tasting some teas by a few vendors, which was great to be able to experience how different styles of teas tasted and broaden my palate, as well as to understand how they taste.  I had arrived early that morning to try attending a session given, however, I was told that I would have to seek permission from anybody giving sessions if I could attend, since I was press.  That seemed a bit strange, so I just avoided sessions altogether.  Another instruction was to not take pictures unless I had received permission first.  Apparently, this proscription against picture-taking was primarily on account of fear of vendors having their products being widely being seen before they were ready to go to market.  So, I made sure my picture-taking was done with caution and with permission.
Tasting some Waterfall Teas on the second morning

On the second day, I tasted some more teas by the same vendors with their offerings out, which once again provided a nice buzz to carry me throughout the day.  This was great to get some more tasting in and to expand my knowledge of teas.

I then stayed long enough to also catch a bloggers panel!  Yes, my people - fellow bloggers!  I knew I had to attend (yes, there was a bloggers panel the first day, but I was, sadly, unable to attend). (Yes, I realize I'm blogging about my blogging about a bloggers panel.)
Bloggers Panel at World Tea Expo

I thought having a bloggers panel was a brilliant idea and I'm glad such a space was carved out for tea bloggers at the World Tea Expo.  Of course, it's great for various tea bloggers to catch up and to connect with each other, but it's also great for people who are not into blogging to gain an insight into this demographic. I thought it was good, although it would have been nice if there was more time allotted for them to deal with more questions.  But it was interesting for me as a blogger to see how this particular topic of bloggers considered their subject.
Also, I appreciated that one of the panelists considered it a "wonderful write-up".  Also, there were some folks, including panelists, who thanked me on Twitter for the write-up (see here and here (and also here), which makes me so glad that I was able to positively contribute to such an event and to its attendees through my blogging.

International Tea Importers teas on the expo floor
On the final day of the event, I was not able to try the various teas available out in the walkway as I had the first two days, but that was no matter, as I was able to taste many teas [finally] on the main exhibition floor of the expo. While I didn't taste all of the teas available for tasting on the exhibition floor, I was still fortunate to be able to taste many of them.  (Also, I should mention that there were some cool products available for viewing, including Alpha Dominche's Steampunk MOD..)

Tasting tea and Scotch was a blast!
A definite highlight of that day, however, was undeniably attending a tea-and-Scotch-tasting!  This was really cool!  Although you can read more at the link I shared, basically,  there were three Scotches and three teas that were paired with each other and we got to experience how their pairings enhanced each other and contrasted them with each other.  It was eye-opening - I would never have thought to put these two beverages together! Update: that post got mentioned in a post by World Tea News.

I am grateful to have received this press pass and to have learned a lot about teas!

05 May 2015

Intentions of Splitting Off Blogs [Metablogging]

While I have been blogging for almost ten years now, a relatively new endeavor of mine has been blogging more publicly, which led to this blog being more of a personal blog, with other blogs being more for public consumption.  So, you might ask, why did I spin off my blogging (initially, with Drew's Views, which then turned into Matters of Interest), which had been primarily here, to be elsewhere, yet keep this blog?  And what are my goals with doing so?

One purpose was to have certain posts viewed more broadly and not simply being seen as simply one person's personal blog.  In other words, I wanted greater exposure for some of my pieces.  And, if I was going to spin off a separate, more impersonal blog, that would leave space for this particular blog to be more of a personal nature.

I also further realized that, in addition to putting out thoughts, material, and more, I could get access to things which I had never previously received.  One such opportunity might be to receive press passes - I had heard of other bloggers receiving them; I wondered if I could get into things because I had a blog and was willing to write about events.  Well, I was super-happy when I received word that I had gotten my first-ever press pass last spring.  Since then, I received two more in 2014 and have received two so far in 2015 :)

Another opportunity is receiving items for review, since I knew bloggers sometimes got items to review, I was hoping I could get some.  While I haven't yet received a lot, I did receive a book, as well as, through a tech blogger, a tech item to review.  I haven't received anything else, but I am hopeful….

Another is getting paid to do promotions.  So far, I've twice done an annual promotion for Oh! Nuts in the spring, and am open to receiving more promotional opportunities.

And I would love the opportunity to get money, perhaps through advertising or through other streams, but I haven't succeeded in this endeavor.  However, I have some particular aspirations for money, were I to receive any significant amount

  • Goal #1: Get enough money to cover the costs of blogging (i.e. domain name and hosting).  
  • Goal #2: Get enough money to cover the costs of blogging paraphernalia (i.e. hats and other "promotional" items).
  • Goal #3: Get enough money to cover the costs of going to events for blogging purposes (just because I get into events for free on a media pass, doesn't mean I don't have to pay for parking…).
  • Goal #4: Get enough money to buy a DSLR camera (I've never had one, but would love one and it would certainly enhance the quality of pictures I post).
  • Goal #5: If I somehow get enough money for everything aforementioned, that would be wonderful and I could have extra spending money :)
Since I am still working on Goal #1 on the list above, it seems it will take me awhile to get a DSLR camera, but one can hope….

19 April 2015

Having Withdrawal with Star Wars Celebration Anaheim Concluding

At Star Wars Celebration this weekend

With today's conclusion of Star Wars Celebration VII ending, it is quite sad; I definitely feel as if I am experiencing some withdrawal. With so much Star Wars stuff having transpired over the past several days, it is sad to think that something like this won't happen for a while. Yes, the next Star Wars Celebration will be only next year, however, it will be on another continent, being in London (although I will try my best to watch what I can of its being streamed). Plus, I don't know that even once it comes back Stateside that I'll be able to attend it.

I thought it was really great not only to be exposed to so much news about upcoming Star Wars movies, television, and more - all of which is exciting - but also to be around people and to be able to discuss what's coming up and what's happened in Star Wars with other people.  There's also a lot of excitement in the Star Wars fan community about what's going on and what's coming up that it's a great opportunity to unpack everything.  

Yes, one can go on the Internet and read blogs and listen to podcasts, as well as to produce them, but it's not the same as the in-person opportunity.  In dealing with my withdrawal feelings from the post-Celebration phase, I wonder if I am just missing an opportunity to meet with other Star Wars fans to engage in discussion around Star Wars.  Perhaps a discussion group meeting in a regular fashion, engaging in a salon-style discussion, with particular topics for each get-together.

We'll see what happens.  In the meantime, I am thankful I had the opportunity to take part in Star Wars Celebration and am processing the excellent weekend.

13 April 2015

4th & 5th Press Passes: Beyond Comic Conventions

At the 2015 US Coffee Championships

A month and a half ago, I was able to use my fourth and fifth press passes(!).  While I was able to use three press passes last year, these two were special because not only did they take place on the same weekend, but they were also not for comic conventions.  My first three were for Long Beach Comic Expo (see here for a round-up of my posts about it), Long Beach Comic Con (yielding three posts: one, two, & three), and Stan Lee's Comikaze (yielding four posts: one, two, three, & four), while my fourth was for the US Coffee Championships and my fifth for the Los Angeles Travel & Adventure Show.

One thing I need to state is that I was very glad I was able to get a press pass to something not a comic convention, especially since that's not something into which I want to pigeon-hole myself as a writer.  Also, before 2014, I had never attended a comic convention, yet I ended up attending four of them (three of which I attended as press).  I am fortunate to have been accepted to receive media credentials at these two events in 2015, especially since they provided me with the ability to provide content that was different than anything I had previously done at Matters of Interest.
Showing my press badge at the 2015 LA Travel & Adventure Show

As to the US Coffee Championships, I was able to go for a couple of hours on its first two morning, before heading off to be able to get to my regular job.  This was especially helpful, in that I was able to caffeinate up before encountering the rest of the day.  Having received the press pass, my wife decided to come along and check out what was going on on the first day.  While not a whole lot was going on, I was also able to meet a couple of blogger brothers who were there on a press pass, which was neat to get to chat with other fellow bloggers. I also got to have my first-ever espresso, which was very bitter!  I had my first-ever macchiato, although I found it to be too milky, so I returned to espressos. 
My first-ever macchiato and my first-ever espresso

On the second day, which had more going on, I returned for another couple of hours, this time with someone else, who knew more about coffee than me, which was definitely helpful to me, to have someone with me who knew more about coffee and help guide me.  Also, this was an interesting aspect of having received press pass: I promoted the event beforehand on Facebook and let people know it was going on, and people even bought tickets to come along with me to the US Coffee Championships - this is definitely advantageous to those giving away press passes: these are sales they would not have otherwise made. 

Getting some coffee at the Roasters Choice competition
Picture I took while in the pit at the barista championship
The 2015 LA Travel and Adventure Show was busy
On this second day, I greatly enjoyed having fifteen different roasts of the same coffee bean by different roasters - I was glad I had a drinking buddy with me to share our thoughts of the roasts and to detect which ones had been roasted more and which had been less so.  This was certainly very neat.  Also, it was novel to me in that I did not drink the coffee with any sweeteners - ever since beginning to drink coffee in the summer of 2011, I have always had it with sweeteners.  However, these coffees were so good, they really did not require sweeteners.  That was so neat and eye-opening for me. 

Beyond that, though was a new experience for me, one that was afforded me through having a press pass.  During the barista championship competition, when they were performing their craft in sort of Kitchen Stadium-like set-up, they only permitted those with press passes to go down in that area to take pictures of video.  At first, I was timid and though, "I am just a mere blogger, how can I go down in there with those professional photographers and videographers?"  Then, after a while, I got up the courage and decided, "Why not?  Let's see what happens."  Well, having a press pass, no one questioned me and I was able to snap a couple dozen of pictures before heading out.  I think, for me, it was really exciting to get that special sort of access, even though I didn't have such cool cameras.

Not being able to return to the US Coffee Championships on Saturday, due to it being Shabbat, I was able to come back on Sunday morning.  The funny thing was that the US Coffee Championships were taking place in the Long Beach Arena and right next door to it was the Los Angeles Travel and Adventure Show, for which I had also received a press pass!  I was super excited that I could easily attend both events!  So, I started with coffee, of course :)  After having tasted some really yummy coffee from the six finalists in the roasters choice championships, I then made my way over to the LA Travel Show.

Wow - it was impressive, with so many countries represented, as well as travel companies, various locations in the western US, and other vendors.  It was almost overwhelming. I was able to make my way through all of them, I think.  And it was pretty neat.  I made sure to stop by the booths, including the Israel booth, where we had travelled the previous month and Turkish Air, upon whom we had flown (and enjoyed). 

After a quick stop back for more coffee at the US Coffee Championships, I then returned to the LA Travel Show for a couple of really helpful talks for travelers: the first one was by Angel Castellanos, who spoke about packing and preparation for travelling.  Following that, I also heard Peter Greenberg dispensing advice when it comes to booking any sort of travel arrangements.  While I could have written about the travel show, writ large, I really didn't know what, in particular to write.  However, finding the Greenberg and Castellanos talks to be very insightful, I stuck with covering those two talks and hopefully other people will be able to get some useful tips out of those posts.
The press badges I received at the two events

As to the US Coffee Championships, I wrote about the mood and what was going on each day (as opposed to focussing on specific elements, as I had at the LA Travel and Adventure Show): Day One, Day Two, and Day Four

I am looking forward to see which events I can cover in the future - we'll see what they may be....

09 February 2015

Recent Trip to Israel

With my family at the Western Wall
Recently, I went with my family on vacation to visit Israel, primarily to visit some of my wife's family, but also to show Israel to our daughters, and, of course, for us to enjoy Israel, as well.

While I had been recently in May to co-lead a Taglit-Birthright Israel trip, it was my first time back in Israel on vacation in three years.  While the weather was mild and only slightly chilly (okay, it was good weather), I, unfortunately, got sick on one of the flights there.  I then spent the rest of the trip trying to recover.

Nevertheless, it was nice to be there and reconnect with the land, with some family, and bumping into other folks there.  Of course, it was also great to have our girls have such an experience and, for the older ones, hopefully remember their trip.