Blogs About Food and Not Quite Food

Hamburgers
A blog all about hamburgers? The blog Everything Burger shows readers that there is more than one way to depict the everyday hamburger. The blogger, Char.L.Ton, presents burgers in just about every media imaginable.

Deli Sandwiches
Here is a deli sandwich little kids will love. It is made out of wood. I found this photo in a magazine in 1974. When I started writing this post, this photo was one of the first things that popped into my mind, so it is very possible I actually made it. If my children read this, perhaps they could post a comment to tell me if they remember playing with it…

The Best of Bridge
Billing themselves as Canada’s Favorite Cookbook Series, The Best of Bridge Cookbooks have been on my book shelf since 1978. They contain recipes that I have used for many years, and also a few spoof recipes such as:
– La Corneillle Ivre
Involves a 450 degree oven, some garlic flavored butter, a stuffed and trussed crow and 2 rocks.When you can put a fork through the rocks, the crow is done.
– Elephant Soup
Billed as being great for large ‘Gray’ Cup parties and democratic conventions and serves 50 score. The recipe takes up a whole page, adds ingredients by the shovel full, and includes lots of rum, none of which is added to the soup.

53-pumpkin2Pumpkin Carving
While most of us are content to carve up a pumpkin at Halloween, an artist by the name of Ray Villafane has taken pumpkin carving to a whole new level. His website includes a pumpkin carving tutorial for those who are much more gifted than I am. My pumpkins always look pretty similar to the one on the right, though I usually give Jack a broad smile, rather than a rather determined look.

Barely Edible Food
I made a recipe called Carrots L’Orange when the kids were small. It came from the aforementioned Best of Bridge Cookbooks. A cooked sauce made primarily of brown sugar, ginger, orange juice and butter was pored over hot tender crisp carrots. It should have made the kids demand carrots every meal. But the result was a creation that tasted a lot like fruit loops, which wasn’t really a favorite with most of our family.

Cake Wrecks
The blog Cake Wrecks is a daily compendium of photos of Decorated Cakes that make your mouth – well, NOT water, mostly. Highly entertaining.

Unwholesome Food
Assuming there is a reality show called the Worst Cooks, the authors of the blog Unwholesome Foods would be winning candidates. My favorite is TurDunkin’.

Knitted Food
An artist by the name of Thomas C. Chung has knitted up some delightful representations of food. I really like the eggs, but the shadow boxes would look wonderful anywhere in my house. (Hint, hint to the knitters in my family…)

How to Move Your Blog and Other Tasks

Change a Blog Address
I was getting ready to move. I’d found a new place, and it was just a matter of how I’d go about moving. I’m speaking of my blog, by the way. I secured the WordPress.com URL for ‘Red House Diaries’ which was nice, because it matched the name of my blog. Now it was just a matter of packing up my stuff and moving it to my new digs. I understood there would be some glitches, depending on how I did this, but I didn’t totally understand how and what. So until the WordPress.com Happiness Engineers got back from their ‘Group Break ‘ I’d just have to wait.

UPDATE: after consulting the Happiness Engineers: If you ever want to move everything in your WordPress Blog to a new URL, do not register the new URL first. No, you have to declare you want to move, and once you have invoked the Change a Blog Address Tool, you will then choose a new URL. The new URL can not be one that has already been registered, even if you are the person who registered it.

You can export your content to a URL you already own, but that does not export your blog stats and a few other things like that. Drat. I’ll have to rethink this…

Facebook Failure
Reluctant as I am to admit it, I am a failed Facebook user. I started Facebook with some enthusiasm. I found some friends, posted pictures, told some stories, and commented on others posts. With time, however, I became increasingly disappointed in the Facebook experience.

I think this has something to do with age. Most of what I see on Facebook  is stuff I’ve heard a hundred times before. (At some point in my life, I’ve said most of the same stuff too.) Once said, the words drift off the bottom of the page, replaced by hundreds of other words, unseen or ignored by just about everyone.

Drowning in RSS Feeds
If you followed my advice to set up an RSS Feed Reader,  you may now find yourself awash in interesting things to read. Maybe too many interesting things. I decided I had to  weed my feeds. Think of it as a form of farming and gardening. Some feed readers let you round up your feeds and pen them into named folders. I started off with topic folders. Then I moved each of my feeds into one of these folders. Now, when I’ve read a feed that I like, I click the little star next to the post title.

Over the next few weeks, I can see how many stars I’ve assigned to that feed. If I don’t give a blog lots of stars, then I might have to unsubscribe from it. At least, that is the premise. We’ll see.

My Caption is in the Running

The Blog, A LEGO a Day, had a caption contest for this photo: Day 200. Seven captions were chosen as finalists, and one of mine is in the running.  So head over to this Caption Poll and vote for your favourite caption – hopefully the one by Margy…

I entered four captions in the contest:
– Ten… no, twelve rolls of duct tape should put this all back together again. (A Red Green reference.)
– This isn’t what I expected to find under the ashes covering Pompeii…
– “You picked a fine time to leave me, Lucille,” observed Inspector Rogers. (A reference to a Kenny Rogers song.)
– All the King’s horses and all the King’s men are never going to find Humpty in this mess…

The best part of this contest was checking the site during the course of the day to see how the captions were flowing. One person would submit something, then another person would build on it. It was a good day.

Thanks in advance to all who vote for my caption, but equal congratulations to everyone who just plain votes. Voting is all about making your voice heard. It doesn’t matter whether it is a poll on the internet, or the people in the government – every single vote matters, yes?

Update: Thanks to all 24 of you who voted for me after I put out the request! I only had 12 votes before my call for help, so I placed a respectable 5th with a total of 36 votes. Now I can go back to penning captions for the Lego blog without the pressure of a contest!

Commenters – The Strong Silent Types

Milestone
Break out the dark chocolate, I’ve reached another milestone in my blog. My posts have been viewed 3000 times! WordPress Site Stats keep track of these sorts of things, although the stats don’t tell me whether 30 people looked at each and every one of my 100 posts, or whether 3000 people looked at one post. Of course, 3000 views in just over a year is a miniscule number. Some bloggers get that number of views in a few hours.

The Quippery

My two most viewed posts are Induction Cooking – Pots and Pans and 1980 Corvette. Apparently those are hot topics in the blogging world…

The Strong Silent Types
Most of the 30 to 3000 people who have visited my blog are the Strong Silent Type. They don’t leave comments. My family is like that, so maybe most of my visitors are family members!

Though my observation skills are pretty good, I haven’t yet figured out how to see whether these visitors are wagging or nodding their heads!

Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.
– Abraham Lincoln –

Ten people who speak make more noise than ten thousand who are silent.
– Napoleon Bonaparte –

Bad Spellers of the World, Untie!

It is a damned poor mind that can’t think of at least two ways of spelling any word.
– Andrew Jackson –

When I was living in the Middle East, we got into a debate about how to pronounce aluminum. The East Coast American who had lived in New Orleans and Scotland pronounced it one way. The Indian who had lived in Africa pronounced it another. The Australian thought they were both wrong, and I, as a Canadian who had lived in Texas and England, really wasn’t sure any more… Of course, the word is also spelled aluminium, which helped to explain part of the difference in our perspectives. Variances in spelling and pronunciation crop up in each and every Country where English is a spoken language!

English is, of course, an evolving language with new words, and meanings for words, being added daily:

Here’s a brain twister. Can you use the word ‘capitulated’ in a sentence where it doesn’t mean ‘Your hat’s on backwards’?
– Joe Martin –

If that doesn’t create enough confusion, each and every person who speaks English does so with varying ability:

…I struggled through the alphabet as if it had been a bramble-bush; getting considerably worried and scratched by every letter. After that, I fell among those thieves, the nine figures, who seemed every evening to do something new to disguise themselves and baffle recognition.
– Charles Dickens –

A learning disability, such as Dyslexia, can make reading, writing and spelling quite a challenge. Many very Talented People are dyslexic, which just goes to show that you don’t have to know how to spell Outstanding, to be Outstanding! That leads me to think that the fact that I am NOT dyslexic might be the biggest roadblock to my success as a well-known writer, surgeon, singer and world leader….

Writing is easy. All you have to do is cross out the wrong words.
– Mark Twain –

1st Annivarsary of Blogging – Announcing My Blog to the Public

Many, many years ago I started a small town newsletter.  It was printed on 8.5 by 11 sheets of paper, and was run off on a hand cranked Gestetner mimeograph machine. A group of faithful friends would gather after the sheets were printed – to collate and staple – we called it “Bend, Fold, Staple and Mutilate Night.” I sold enough advertising to pay for the materials and the postage. Everyone in town was given a copy.

Morning Coffee and a big city newspaper – cabin style.

Eventually a Company that wanted to publish a Real Newspaper arrived in town. My newsletter was going to become redundant. And because my newsletter was a volunteer society, I couldn’t legally sell the assets. The Real Newspaper offered to give me a job if I let them use my name and reputation.  I agreed, mostly because the job was only going to be one or two days a week, and it got me out of the house. I never  made any money personally from this job. My salary only paid for the babysitter I had to hire because I wasn’t at home to look after the kids. I learned a lot though, not the least of which was that the editor of the paper couldn’t write all that coherently. This was where I learned to ghostwrite, in such a way that the editor didn’t really know I’d done just a bit more than correct his spelling errors… Several years passed, I moved away, and the little Town Newspaper continued on without me. I stopped writing except for my Annual Christmas letter.

A year ago I started writing again and chose a WordPress Blog to “publish” me. It feels just like my newspaper days, except it is so much easier. No messy ink, no typesetter machines, no paper cuts. No deadlines. No Advertisers. No Readers – well, in the beginning there weren’t any. But I didn’t really care. I was too busy playing with words and themes to care whether anyone saw it. I didn’t even tell my family and friends what I was doing. I didn’t want to feel like I was writing for anyone but me.

A year has gone by, and I am ready to tell my family and friends that I have a blog. It feels a bit like the old days, where I invited the team to come over to assemble the newsletter. So here we go! Welcome to the Red House! Who brought the stapler?

Does Reality TV Reflect a Downward Intelligence Spiral?

Dumbing Down – to lower the level of difficulty and the intellectual content of (as a textbook); to lower the general level of intelligence ; statement of truth about real cultural trends in education and culture.
(Dictionary definitions)

The QuipperyWe’re kind of smug here in Canada – we like to think we’re “different” than Americans. And, in many ways, happily, we are. But, unhappily, we’re working hard to change that. I’m thinking specifically about what I refer to as the “Dumbing Down” of America.

One example of “Dumbing Down” would have to be the popularity of Reality TV programs. I’m thinking specifically of “Wipeout”. I’ve never watched it, but our little local paper describes it thus: “…draws humour from the different ways huge objects knock contestants into a moat.” I don’t quite understand why anyone would want to be a contestant, nor why that would be funny to viewers. Even more disconcerting is the fact that Canadians can now compete in “Wipeout Canada.”

Our little newspaper goes on to profile a local lady who was selected to be on this show. She wanted to do this so that she could be cool in the eyes of her two sons, who both love the show. Now, I can see why two pre-teen boys find humour in this type of show. I have grandsons. I know what they think is funny. The perplexing part is why a mother would think she has to let herself be the object of the humour.

I have to give the lady due credit though. She had to pluck up the nerve to fly to Argentina (where the show is filmed), overcome her fear of extreme heights, and get used to having a TV camera jammed in her face. It was all likely quite an experience.

It’s not that I am totally against Reality TV. When we lived in the UK, we were big fans of a program called Scrapheap Challenge. It featured two teams who attempted to construct a machine that would achieve a particular objective. The time limit to do this was 10 hours, and the location was in a scrapheap. The Car Guy absolutely coveted the scrapheap.

The Scrapheap Challenges varied from week to week, but each one required both mechanical and engineering knowledge. The two teams would invariably approach the challenge from a different direction. The show host, as an aside, would explain the principles involved. It was quite educational, and certainly entertaining. And very British, which is usually quite different than anything initiated in America. On the whole, the Brits don’t seem to Dumb things Down as much.

Speaking of Not so Dumb TV, Canada is home to an excellent series called Murdoch Mysteries. Set in Toronto in the late 1800’s, the murder mystery stories invariably introduce inventions and ideas that were making their debut at that time, and alludes to how they might be used in the future. My very favourite was an episode that involved a dangerous killing machine that sent out microwaves. A Toronto Constable by the name of George conjectured that perhaps these microwaves could be used for more benign things, like cooking potatoes. Inspector Murdoch replied that this wouldn’t be very practical because the machine that produced the microwaves filled an entire room. George responded that, while that might be true, homes of the future might have one entire room that was used just to cook potatoes with a microwave machine.

Apart from the fact that someone dies in each show, I think I would rather have my grandchildren watch Murdoch than Wipeout…

Your Blog, Your Unique Story

We’ve heard that a million monkeys at a million keyboards
could produce the complete works of Shakespeare;
now, thanks to the Internet, we know that is not true.

“Romeo, oh Romeo”… this could take a while.

And that brings us nicely to blogging. There are an estimated 150 million blogs floating around in cyberspace.  A few blogs are read by huge numbers of people. Most blogs are read by very few people. Some are well written. Some are not. But none of that really matters. What matters is that each and every blog has a special reason for being there.  Each and every author pecks away at a keyboard of some description, and then bravely sends their inner thoughts to the outer world. I say bravely, because blogging was a bit scary for me in the beginning. It was one thing to write a Christmas letter for my family and friends. It was quite another thing to write that first blog post. And no matter how easy WordPress makes it to set up a blog, there are many, many things to figure out before a random collection of thoughts becomes a cohesive story.

Of course, some blogs don’t want to be a cohesive story. But mine does. I didn’t know that when I started out. After writing my first  few posts, I realized that my recurring post topics could be put into a Post Tool called Categories. Categories could be displayed with a Widget. Now my posts could be rounded up and indexed!  Pages…  I found they were good places to park my “Big Picture”. They are like the paper jacket on a hardcover book – they talk about the author, and give the reader a taste of what the story is going to be about. Links are handy things. They are a bit like footnotes in that they point the reader to further information on topics. Links also have a handy Widget to display them. I think “a picture is worth a thousand words” so I try to put some sort of Graphic in each post. Finding the right graphic isn’t always easy… Well, it is easy if you just “borrow” it from someone elses web page. I don’t think that is always right, so I find other sources.

Last, but not least, are WordPress Themes. These create the mood for the story.  I have tried many of the themes, and am still looking for the perfect one for my story. I want one that has a custom header that is not too big and not too small, a  custom background, a font that is easy to read and not too small, a sidebar for my widgets, tabbed pages along the top somewhere, title text that is not too big and not too small, and block quotes that stand out a bit.

Everyday our real world becomes more homogeneous. The boxes we live in, the jobs we perform, the cars we drive, the places we eat – they all start to look more and more like the boxes, jobs, cars and eateries of strangers half way around the world.  But a blog story – well, no two will ever be exactly alike. And a million monkeys at a million keyboards will never be able to duplicate these stories either!

How do you make your blog tell your unique story?

Choosing a WordPress.com Theme

If you are using the free version of WordPress.com, you know there are a certain number of Themes to choose from. Some themes can be customized considerably, and some are quite fixed. I have tried a great number of these themes, and have not settled on any one as being perfect for me. The following are some of my thoughts on choosing themes:

1. I have several blogs. Some are mostly photos, and some are mostly writing. I prefer a darker theme for the photo blog, because I think the photos look better on a darker background. The dark background necessitates white print, which I think is harder to read. So I wouldn’t choose a dark background theme for a writing blog.

2. I think Categories are the best way to navigate my blogs. So I want the Categories Widget to be on a sidebar, either to the left, or the right of my posts. I don’t want the Categories to be way down at the bottom in the footer. I also wouldn’t choose single column themes because they, too, would not display categories where I want them.

3. Probably the most important criteria should be how physically easy it is to read the blog. This is determined by the Font that is used, the size of the font, the color of the font, and the page background.  A Font Study done for the Software Usability Research Lab (SURL) at Wichita State University was published in January 2002. It looked at Legibility, Attractiveness and Font Size. Study participants indicated that the most legible fonts were Arial, Courier and Verdana. The most attractive fonts were Georgia and Times New Roman. The best font size depended on the font itself, with Verdana looking best at 10 point size, and Arial and Times New Roman looking best at 12 point. Overall, Verdana was the most preferred font. Times New Roman was the least preferred.

Fonts are usually categorized as being either Sans Serif, such as Arial, Tahoma or Verdana; or they are Serif, such as Times New Roman and Georgia. There are a huge number of other fonts that fall into these two categories. The majority of them, however, are not advised for use on the internet. The reason has to do with which fonts are installed on most computers. Visitors to your site will only see fonts that are installed on their own computer. The vast majority of computers, whether Windows or Mac based, will have the following fonts installed: Sans Serif – Arial, Tahoma and Verdana; Serif – Georgia, Times New Roman.

The size of the font is important too, but I think most web browsers allow the viewer to adjust the size of the text. The color of the text is another issue. The reason books are generally black type on white paper is because this causes the least eye strain. So, if a blog consists mostly of words, black type on a light color background would make the most sense.

4. Many bloggers use Pages in addition to Posts. I like Themes that display the Pages on Tabs near the top of the page. I particularly like the “HOME” tab. It lets the reader get back to the beginning if they get lost somewhere in the blog hierarchy. If a theme doesn’t display Page Tabs, the fallback position is a Widget.

5. If a Photo or Graphic is wider than the column it is supposed to fit in, the Theme will deal with in one way or another. Some Themes will proportionally shrink the photo so that it fits in the space, and still looks right. Some themes just squinch the picture so that it is narrow enough to fit, but leave the length the same. Some themes just clip the offending width off.

6. I’m also interested in how the Theme treats Blockquotes. Many themes just put them in italics and center them on the page. But some themes make the quotes stand out by putting a big quotation mark in front, or a line along the side, or boxing them.

7. Some themes have custom colors, custom headers and/or custom backgrounds. These features can lead to all sorts of strange and wonderful results. The limit to complete customization is the lack of a custom footer too…

My experience with Themes tells me that so far there is no perfect theme for me. I will have to pick the most important features, and compromise on the rest of the stuff. Of course, if you upgrade to Custom CSS, then you have a lot more choice on how your blog appears!

Will you Quit Facebook?

CBC News informed us today that more than 27,000 people have pledged to Quit Facebook. These people are concerned about how Facebook manages their personal data.

facs_neighborsI thought I had all my privacy settings adjusted such that my personal data could only be viewed by my friends. Then, Facebook initiated Community Pages, and all of a sudden all my profile information was linked to pages that I hadn’t authorized. Sure, I like watching NCIS, and I had put that in my profile. But now I was getting updates about the NCIS TV show arriving on my home page. Of more concern, had I become one of the almost 3 million people whose face would appear as a fan on NCIS Facebook? I would hope not, but I still didn’t want my home page filling up with unsolicitated reports – I get enough stuff from my friends. So I did the most logical thing I could think of. I erased everything from my profile page.

The QuipperyIt was like spring housecleaning, but a lot easier. Is the information gone for good? Probably not. Information in cyberspace is sort of like dust. You can clean dust out of a room with your duster or vacuum, but you haven’t destroyed it. You have just put it somewhere else. Information that you upload onto the internet is much the same. You  can erase it from one place, but there is a good possibility that a copy of it exists in another place.

The lesson here is – if you use the internet at all, do not expect privacy. Express yourself accordingly.