Holiday Progress Report

Half way through the 2010 end-of-year holiday vacation, I hereby present the following progress report regarding planned activities:

  1. Lasagnapalooza: 100%
  2. Reading of books: 5%
  3. Reading of backlog on Instapaper: 5%
  4. Web site maintenance and enhancements: 40%
  5. Shopping for after-Xmas bargoons: 1%
  6. At-home video/movie/Illico backlog watching: 20%
  7. Paring down the 600+ items in my “do to” email folder: 1%
  8. Household maintenance and repairs: 0%
  9. Laying around like a big fuken slob: 800%

Verdict: I need at least two more months of vacation.


The Blork Blog is officially ten years old.

One might expect on such a majestic occasion a dissertation on the meaning of having documented the first decade of the 21st Century in real time, or of breaking ground in a new medium, or perhaps simply a recap of the “best” or “favorite” posts.

Heck with that.

How about a quick look at where things stand now? Loyal readers will have noticed that I don’t blog as often as I once did. This is partly because of how the medium has evolved and partly because of how it has fragmented. When I started this blog, blogging was the only gig in town for those who wanted to “be the media” and to write and read quickly and easily generated content unfettered by editorial or corporate meddling. Back in those early days, most bloggers were writing about the issues of their day (distinct from the issues of the day) and that was about it. Many people read blogs simply because they were blogs. Writing standards were low, but that was irrelevant in light of the proverbial immediacy of the medium. Eventually blogs began to specialize and along came the food blogs, the gadget blogs, the pundit blogs, and the self-help (weight loss, smoking cessation, career advancement, etc.) blogs.

That was a natural and necessary evolution. I never really went along with it though, despite the illusion for a while that this was some kind of food blog. It remains, at its peril, very old school in that it is, as it was, an online representation of yours truly. To wit, as a child, then a teenager, then an adult, I was never able to decide what I wanted to be when I grew up. So it goes with this blog, although in this case more deliberately. Going against all the received wisdom of what a blog “should be” and how I should specialized and promote it so as to gather more readers, I have deliberately chosen to keep the Blork Blog essentially as its always been.

That’s not to say it hasn’t changed at all. For one thing, the posts are generally longer in recent years. If you look at the posts from 2001 and 2002, many of them were extremely brief, on par with today’s Twitter posts. I don’t do those short snappers anymore; my brain farts go on Twitter (you can see my last three Twitter posts over there in the right-hand column, under “Recent Twitters.”)


Cartoon by Alex Gregory,

As others have said elsewhere, people who just want to blather have newer and more convenient outlets for that, such as Twitter and Facebook. Some social media pundits claim that blogging is over, but the more intelligent and less bandstand-jumping ones say that it has simply evolved. The blatherers, they say, are over on Twitter and Facebook, but people who have something to say tend to say it in blogs.

Unfortunately there’s also the notion that people who have something to sell tend to sell it in blogs. Most often it seems that what they’re selling is just more of themselves, in order to generate more hits and click-throughs so as to get so much more advertising revenue. There are boatloads of highly commercialized blogs that do this, such as everything on the Gawker network (including longtime Blork favorites Life Hacker and Gizmodo), and the rapidly growing Three Ring Blog network, the force behind The People of Walmart, D-Bag (douchebag) Planet, and WTF Tattoos (all of which make me weep for humanity – at least American humanity – but I can’t stop looking!). Both of those networks are very successful, for different reasons, and they show the continuing value and success of the blog format. In particular they show that “success” comes from being very focused on a specific topic, or to put it another way, to appeal very directly to a specific desire.

Unfortunately, none of that has anything to do with me and the Blork blog.

After all, what am I going to specialize in? Cupcakes? Pizza? Technical writing? I’d sooner nail my head to the floor than spend the amount of time and dedication it would take to turn this into an “A-List” blog on one of those or any other specialized topics. And for what?

Forget that. The only thing this blog specializes in is me. Or to be precise, “Food (as seen and prepared by me), Montreal (as experienced by me) and me (as lived by me). Sorry folks, but that’s all it is. A few months ago I thought I might let this blog die off after it turned 10, but something tells me I’ll keep chugging away for a while yet.

For what it’s worth, I currently have almost 70 posts in “draft” mode. These are things I sketched out over the years but for whatever reason couldn’t quite make sound right, or in some cases they were temporal and their time passed before I hit “Publish.” Perhaps one of my projects for 2011 will be to work my way through some of those drafts, fixing them up and publishing them or discarding them permanently. So don’t be surprised if in the coming months you find posts about Saddam Hussein or some movie that won an Oscar in 2004. I’ll probably mark them as “recrudescents” or whatnot so as not to seem completely daft.

And in case you haven’t been paying attention, and lest you think this blog is my only online outlet, I’ll remind you that just like Gawker and Three Ring Blogs, Blork is more than a blog, it’s a network!

The Blork Network includes:

  • The Blork Blog. That’s what you’re looking at now.
  • Monday Morning Photo Blog. Live weekly photographs since 2004. No particular theme, but curated to be interesting, exploratory, and broadly scoped.
  • From the Hip – Montreal. Currently hosted on Aminus3, where it has been dormant for some time. (See Street Scene, below for an update.)
  • My DP1. Long dormant but highly informative blog about the then-mythical Sigma DP1 camera. I still get more traffic on that short-lived blog than I get on the Monday Morning Photo Blog.
  • Blork’s Literary Snippets. Essentially just a virtual corkboard for snippets of particularly good literary writing that I find in the books that I read.
  • Flickr. Catch-all photos of everything from my cats to my meals to things I see in and around home and beyond.
  • Blork on Twitter. Brain farts and miscellaneous links.
  • True Blork on Tumblr. Mostly just Hipstamatic photos and links to videos and things. Probably the least essential corner of the Blork network.
  • Blork on (iPhone/iPod/iPad and account needed). Bascially Twitter for pictures. My photos uploaded to are usually cross-posted to Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook.
  • Street Scene. A new street photography blog to be launched in 2011; a resurrection and extension of From the Hip – Montreal, hosted at and with a wider sweep. [Update: it’s been launched. Here’s the launch announcement.]

Taglines from Hell

Because I am a masochist at heart, I sometimes spend my lunch break eating at my desk and reading discussion threads on Linked In. In a recent thread, some poor sap was asking for help coming up with a promotional tagline that connected the idea of volunteering with the concept of “winners” or “winning.”

Having been charged with creating taglines in a previous job, I have a special appreciation for the challenges involved. It’s way harder to come up with a good one than you might think, and one of the biggest hurdles is deflecting the tin-eared suggestions that come from your co-workers and colleagues. It’s an especially big hurdle if the sour notes come from your boss (or client, if you’re a freelancer).

I knew what to expect when I saw that person asking for help in a Linked In discussion. I knew it would be bad, but the part of me that loves a good train wreck had to click through and read the suggestions.

Below are a few of them, verbatim. Imagine any of these painted on a tall banner at a flashy trade show, presented as the cornerstone to a volunteer recruitment campaign:

  • You can’t win, if you don’t volunteer to do so!
  • Winners say no to drags
  • Winners join us because here is where cream always rises to the top!
  • There aren’t any winners without losers. Choose your side. (Ed. note: the guy who came up with that one is a CEO.)
  • Winners have volunteers on their team
  • Premiere as a Volunteer – Begin and Win
  • Oh I wish I were an Oscar Meyer Winner, that is what I’d truly like to volunteer!
  • Let the other person win, volunteer.
  • Winners…..get up one more time than they fall down!

And the Pièce de résistance:

  • Winners do not compromise the position, Leaders fo not compromise the goals adn Volunterrs do not compromise the causes. (sic)

Happy, happy people!

According to a study reported by the BBC a few years ago, Danes are the happiest people on earth.

Hey, why not? They’re all nine feet tall, slender, blond, and they have a naked mermaid protecting their capital.

Adrian White, the author of the study, used data from a survey of 80,000 people worldwide to create a “happiness map” – or more precisely, “A Global Projection of Subjective Well-being” – which you can see below. The redder the area on the map the happier the people who live there (with cold, yellow Siberia seeming not very happy at all).


It looks like we’re pretty happy over here in Canada, and in the U.S. too. It should be noted that the study was released two years before the 2008 economic melt-down.

I was surprised at the happiness rankings in the Middle-east. Despite all the kvetching, Israelis seem to be as happy as pie, while their neighbours are not amused at all. There’s a notable and surprising exception; Saudi Arabia. Apparently the Saudis are as happy as the Israelis! In light of the secret diplomatic “cables” exposed by Wikileaks this week, in which we learned that the Saudis – like the Israelis – are quite happy to bomb the heck out of Iran, they’re starting to look like happy peas in a happy pod. Perhaps the Saudi-Israeli tensions we’ve been fretting over for the past few decades is a big sham and they’re really BFFs in secret! We’ll need to read more from Wikileaks to find out!

You’ll also notice that Kuwait ranks as happy as Saudi Arabia, and its once-invading neighbour to the north, Iraq, doesn’t even rank a color. Now there’s a fine revenge for 1991, served cold and grey.