Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The Roller Coaster Ride at Absolute Poker

When Scott Tom, a student at the University of Montana in the late 1990s, first saw an online poker game he said, "This poker website. It's awesome. I mean, the software really sucks and the graphics are horrible… Even though it's crap, there are like fifty people playing. And they're taking a rake from every table, all night long. They're minting money."

Straight Flush by Ben Mezrich relates the "true" story of how Scott Tom and five of his fraternity brothers turned their weekly poker game into an improved version of that rudimental online poker room. Their Absolute Poker room became, at its height, an online empire bringing in revenues of nearly a million dollars a day.

But before the team could stage an IPO to cash in on their good fortune, their empire came crashing down. The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 made Absolute Poker take a gamble by leaving its doors open to American players. A cheating scandal in 2007 revealed that someone behind the scenes at the poker room was taking advantage of a super user's ability to see opponents' hole cards. And finally, the U.S. Department of Justice seized control of Absolute Poker's website domain on the infamous Black Friday.

All of that was far ahead in the future in the opening chapters of Straight Flush, which was written by the bestselling author of The Accidental Billionaires (Mezrich's 2009 book which was adapted by Columbia Pictures for the film "The Social Network") and Bringing Down the House (which was adapted into the movie "21").

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Sofia's Stunning Gold-Domed Cathedral, at Sunrise

I did not come to Sofia to sightsee. Having lived and worked in the capital of Bulgaria for two years, my vacation was planned as an opportunity to see friends, old and new; to relive my Bulgarian experience; to travel to places not previously visited; and as an opportunity to get inspiration for my future writing, both fiction and non-fiction.

Whenever family or friends visited us in Bulgaria, we always took them to the center of the city to see Alexander Nevsky Cathedral – the stunning gold-domed cathedral that serves as the capital's landmark attraction. The domes are spectacular; the dark interior with icons and paintings of the saints serves candle-lighting pilgrims, as is typical of Eastern Orthodox churches.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Interfaith Group Awarded Prize for Peace

Award ceremony, Jerusalem, June 22, 2015

The Interfaith Encounter Association (IEA), an organization dedicated to promoting peace in the Middle East through interfaith dialogue and cross-cultural study, was this week awarded the IIE Victor J. Goldberg Prize for Peace.

The award, which includes a $10,000 prize, was presented in Jerusalem by Victor J. Goldberg, a retired IBM executive who is a longtime Trustee of the New York-based Institute of International Education (IIE) and who established and endowed the prize in 2005.

Representing the IEA were Yehuda Stolov and Salah Aladdin.  Dr. Stolov, IEA’s executive director, founded the Interfaith Encounter Association in 2001 in the belief that no political arrangement can be sustained over time without peaceful relations on the grassroots level.

Salah Aladdin serves in a consulting capacity as the assistant director of the Interfaith Encounter Association, where he began working as an accountant. He was the founder and facilitator of IEA’s second group, the Jerusalem Youth Interfaith Encounter. Aladdin currently works at the Ministry of Finance in Jerusalem and is a leader of Al-Razi, a non-profit society which assists outstanding students to continue their academic education.

In its mission statement, IEA states: “We believe that, rather than being a cause of the problem, religion can and should be a source of the solution for conflicts that exist in the region and beyond.”

Read the rest of this story on The Times of Israel.

 this to help promote coexistence and dialogue.

Related story:

I Celebrate Ramadan! on My Own. In My Backyard.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

I Celebrate Ramadan! on My Own. In My Backyard.

Let me start out by stating that I am not a Muslim. I was born and circumcised after eight days on the planet; I read the Haftarah at my Bar Mitzvah; I was married under a chuppah in Israel - my home and homeland; and I completed the circle by seeing my own son become a Jewish man.

That said, I have always shown an openness to other religions. I have eagerly explored the Catholic cathedrals of Spain; I have visited the Vatican; and here in Israel, I am fascinated, but do not understand the Bahais. Last December, my wife and I spent a weekend in the Druze town Daliat al-Carmel, where the best part of the visit was eating the local hummus, the tasty tehina.

So you see - a lot of my appreciation of other religions is my thirst and hunger to taste their special foods, and to learn about their history, culture, and even their traditions! Do Muslim men circumcise their sons while saying some sort of blessing? Is the hunt for Easter eggs a religious, traditional or cultural happening for kids? Who exactly are the Bahais?

My wife and I recently attended a get-together of Jerusalem Jews and Palestinian Muslims from the neighboring villages. Thank you David Brinn for inviting me to what is a regular interfaith gathering that meets a bit irregularly. Both my wife and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Read the rest of this article on The Huffington Post.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

I Am Interviewed in Bulgarian

Okay, my Bulgarian is not that good. But on my recent trip to Sofia, I was interviewed in English and the interview was just translated into Bulgarian.

Also, a while back I was interviewed by email for another site, and that published online just this week.

In front of the Ivan Vazov National Theater in Sofia, May 2015. Photo credit: Jodie Shuman

So, my thanks are to Aleksandrina Georgieva – International Desk reporter at Sega Newspaper - for informing Angel Petrov - Editor in Chief of Novinite that I was coming to Bulgaria.

Angel - it was wonderful meeting you and the words that appeared online were exactly the words I spoke when we had coffee. Well, after all you did have a recording device. I hope your trip to Egypt went well!

My thanks to Vessy Dimitrova, who last August posted an article of mine, in Bulgarian on the Dama.bg (women's website), Vessy interviewed me by email and then conveniently went on maternity leave. She also got married and her name is now Vessy Bozhidarova. Vessy, my thanks to you and a double MAZAL TOV!.

And finally, I met Zlatina Georgieva, Editor in Chief at Dama.bg. It was Zlatina who posted my interview with Vessy on UrbanTales.bg.

I am honored to have met so many friendly, personal, and helpful members of the Bulgarian media - all in just the past few weeks!

Here are the interviews (in Bulgarian):

Urban Tales
Елис Шуман: Когато съм в България, аз съм си вкъщи

Елис Шуман: Фокусирайте се върху хубавото

English version:
Ellis Shuman: I'm in Bulgaria, I'm Home!

Even if you don't know Bulgarian you can probably recognize my name in Cyrillic:
Елис Шуман

 this to your Bulgarian friends!!!

Saturday, June 20, 2015

The Writer. At Night. Outside. Writing.

Night Writing
See also:

The Writer as a Young Man

If you like what you see, please share!

Monday, June 15, 2015

Exploring Sofia, Bulgaria for Less than $25

Bulgaria is off the beaten path for most western travelers and that is a shame, as the country is beautiful and quite inexpensive. Black Sea beaches attract sunbathers in the summer months, and there is top notch skiing available at the mountain resorts of Bansko, Borovets and Pamporovo.

Many travelers never make it to Sofia, the capital and largest city of the country. Sofia is located at the foot of Mt. Vitosha, which gives residents the possibility to ski just minutes away from home. For visitors, sightseeing opportunities abound in the city center and most of the touring can be done by foot.

Sofia is developing quickly, with modern offices and apartment buildings, and large shopping malls offering everything under the sun. Even so, horse-drawn wagons still make their way along cobblestone streets, Russian-made Lada cars are seen frequently, and there are numerous open air markets, giving a strong sense of Old World traditions. The city boasts huge expanses of green parks, the spaceship-like NDK cultural center, many museums and galleries, and striking architecture.

I had the amazing opportunity to live in Sofia for two years and highly recommend the city to visitors. A short visit to Sofia is extremely worthwhile, and affordable.

Read the rest of this article on eTramping.com.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Top 10 Remarkable Facts About Bulgaria

See also:

10 Places You Must Visit in Bulgaria

10 Amazing Things You Didn't Know About Bulgaria


Valley of Thracians - suspense set in modern day Bulgaria

Did you like the video? Share with your friends!

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Welcome Message

Thank you for visiting my blog! I would like to introduce myself:

I write a lot. I write book reviews, travel articles about Bulgaria, and I give tips to help aspiring writers. I write about churches in Israel, poker and sex, food, Goodreads, how to stay positive in life, Maori battle dances, and my literary career - including the fact that I just signed with a literary agent to sell my recently completed new novel.

I have always wanted to become a published author. I self-published Valley of Thracians in January 2013. After that, my goal was to establish a platform in order to increase my reputation as a writer. As part of this process, I began using Twitter. Twitter is my main platform. This decision was partially based on the fact that you are limited to 140 characters a tweet. My first novel was 103,000 words long. You do the math.

Speaking of Twitter, if you don't know how to use it, here are some tips.

I share everything. How to sell 910 copies of your book in one week. How to find time to write if you have a busy schedule. How to make the most of Goodreads (if you're an author)

I want to entertain. I write for all audiences: men and women, poker players, the young and the old, Bulgarian authors, lovers of Israel and lovers of good food.

I write for everyone! NO THAT IS NOT CORRECT. I write for myself. Valley of Thracians currently has over 170 reviews on Amazon. Thank you readers! I know the book is good!! But, I didn't write it for you. The story is set in modern day Bulgaria not only because I love Bulgaria, but because no novel written in the West has ever had beautiful Bulgaria as its setting. Possibly the book is unique in the world of literature. But most importantly, I wrote this specific book because it's exactly the kind of book I love to read.

I write my books so that I will be satisfied. I share my writing so that you will be satisfied with me.

All I want to do is share my writing. All I ask of you is to share in return.

I don't know anyone who has built a literary career in this fashion and that is precisely why I chose to do it this way - to be different from everyone else.

My slogan is:


Don't forget to LIKE my Author's Page - this is really appreciated!

A Challenge for Your Mind as Well as Your Body

Instead of exercising for my usual 60 minutes, I exercised today for only 10 minutes. I feel better physically and am less tired than if I had done the full hour.

To clarify: In one hour at my regular pace, I usually do 6 km. In 10 minutes today, I did 1.51 km.

If I had kept up this pace for 1 hour, I would have covered a distance of over 6 km.

In mathematical terms: 10 minutes X 1.51 on X > 60 minutes X 1.5 on Y

How did I do it?

Continue to read for the answer.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

The Bulgarian Sheep in My Backyard Moved!

How I Got Traffic from Goodreads to My Blog (This Blog)

I am not inventing the wheel here, but apparently I am. If you don't know what Goodreads is, this article is probably not for you.

After the opening there are no additional words. No words are needed. If you are an author, and you have a presence on Goodreads, and you have a blog, and you want to get people from Goodreads to your blog (or to eventually buy your book), this is the article for you.

I now go into Goodreads once a day. I friend anyone and everyone. I leave. That's it.

Look at the pictures. They tell how I did it.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Why You Need to Stay Positive in Life

This is being written in real time.

I could just tell the story. But instead, I will tell the story by writing it down.

This is because, staying positive is what is guiding me in life. Staying positive is resulting in real positive things.

Staying positive brought me a literary agent.

Staying positive helped my daughter get a new job, my son-in-law get a new job. They just don't know that my being positive helped create the atmosphere that led them to getting good results.

Being positive also makes me a bit talkative. Sorry, Jodie, my loving wife, but this is what you taught me to do, over and over for some 37 years of marriage. I just wasn't listening. Now I am listening. And I am acting on your advice. And I am talking about it. And yes, I will shut up when you say to me to shut up.

So, I will shut up now. And show everybody the power of being positive. I cannot take credit for the following in any way. I just am positive. And I see results in life. In my family's life.

Thanks for reading this. Now I can go to sleep at last. But first, I share.

Monday, June 1, 2015

When an Israeli Author Leaps into the Unknown

Last week I signed a contract with an American-based literary agent. My new book, a suspense novel set in both Israel and Bulgaria, is on submission.

I describe myself as an American-born, Israeli author who writes about Bulgaria. My first novel, the self-published Valley of Thracians, was set entirely in Bulgaria. In The Burgas Affair, the action takes place in two countries I love - Israel and Bulgaria.

You probably have guessed why I write about, and love Israel. I was born in Sioux City, Iowa, and made aliyah with my family at the age of fifteen. I finished high school in Jerusalem, served for three years in the Israel Defense Forces, was a founding member of Kibbutz Yahel in the Arava Valley. I married Jodie, who had moved to Israel from Ithaca, New York, and together we began raising a family. We eventually moved to Moshav Neve Ilan, outside Jerusalem, where we continue to live today.

But why Bulgaria?

The Writer as a Young Man - Looking for My Laptop Circa 1980

Enough social media! Time to get back to writing!!

See also:

The Writer. At Night. Outside. Writing.