Category: Miscellaneous

Miscellaneous

Ramsay Ramblings 2011-04-10

It’s been seven months since I last updated this blog, and a lot has happened since then.

2011 has so far been the year for personal development. I’ve pretty much abandoned JapanSoc and Hotaru CMS since those pet projects are so time-consuming, and instead I’m very focused on other things.

First off, I’ve continued with my workouts. I go to the gym three times a week and continually push myself to lift more weight. I’ve made good progress so far, and am motivated to keep going.

I also kept on running. In March, I entered my first 10km race and finished 276th out of 1,042 people. I was 84th out of 222 men in the 30-39 age bracket. Summer will be here soon so the running may have to be put on hold, but I definitely want to beat my time of 48:08 next year!

Another big change was starting an English school here in my home last October. It’s already grown to over 50 students, mostly children, and is providing a welcome break from three years glued to a computer screen.

As well as all that, I’m studying how to make iPhone apps. We shall see how far I get later in the year.

On the family front, Riku starts kindergarten tomorrow. I have to wait outside for the little bus to come and pick him up. He’s also taking one of my English classes at home. And speaking of English, we’ve just got satellite TV so he can immerse himself in such animated rubbish as Ben 10 and Kim Possible.

As for Mami, she’s still working at the hospital, but has reduced her hours to help with our school’s admin duties.

Ramsay Ramblings 2009-08-02

Renewing my visa

After being told it was too late to apply for permanent residency a few months ago, I recently tried to apply for a renewal of my spouse visa. Typical of me, I didn’t take half the documentation I needed so was sent home with instructions to gather the rest. Surprisingly, this time I was told to submit both my spouse and permanent residency applications together so I’m filling out all the forms, including a “please let me stay” letter to the Ministry of Justice and a hand-drawn map to my house (real maps aren’t acceptable!).

Upcoming nose operation

Breathing through my nose has become increasingly difficult over the last couple of years and finally the doctor recommended an operation instead of sending me away with more ineffective medicine. Such operations run in my family, so it doesn’t come as a surprise. No details yet, but I’m having an X-ray this week and will find out more then.

New project, Hotaru CMS

I was a huge contributor to Social Web CMS, the platform that runs JapanSoc.com, but have decided to build my own system instead of constantly modifying something I’ve never been altogether happy with. My new project is Hotaru CMS, which means “Firefly” Content Management System. It’s still early, but I expect it will quickly catch up with the likes of Pligg and offer a far more flexible plugin and theme system (more akin to WordPress). I’m currently looking for people interested in helping out, so let me know if that’s you.

Rikuto to start nursery school

Ricky starts nursery school next week. For four days a week, he’ll join about seven other children in the nursery school at my wife’s hospital. It’s set up especially for hospital employees and the staff there seem very nice indeed. The children are from 1 to 3 years old (Ricky just turned 2) and they look like a lovely bunch of friends for our son. Incidentally, they are having a dads-only event in late August. Should be interesting!

My broken toe

Remember my broken big toe? Well it’s been a whole year since I broke it and I have a new nail replacing the old one. That means the old nail is yellow and kind of hanging off and it looks really gross.

Wrap-up

That wraps up this edition of Ramsay Ramblings, the first post on this lovely new WordPress theme I’m using called Cleanr. Big text for my bad eyes!

Billions and Trillions Confusion

Here’s a quote from a recent BBC news article:

Eurozone leaders have agreed on a comprehensive package designed to shore up banks, including making more than a 1,000bn euros ($1,366bn) available for interbank loans.

Notice anything strange about it? That’s right, 1,000bn euros and the dollar equivalent.

When I first saw that, I thought it was wrong, it had to be “one trillion”, so off I went try to confirm my suspicion.

What’s a billion?

There are two answers:

  • Short scale: 1,000,000,000 (one thousand million), and
  • Long scale: 1,000,000,000,000 (one million million)

The first is typically U.S. English, and the second British, but according to Wikipedia, “In 1974 the government of the UK abandoned the long scale, so that the UK now applies the short scale interpretation exclusively in mass media and official usage.”

What’s a trillion?

A trillion also has short and long scale versions, the latter of which is equivalent to a million million million! From this, we can assume that a trillion dollars in the monetary sense is “one thousand billion dollars”, or $1,000,000,000,000. So, if $1,000bn is $1 trillion, then the BBC should have written the value as $1.366 trillion. Either it’s an honest mistake or an attempt to make the value look less than it actually is.

Just how much is a trillion dollars?

I’ll finish with this great explanation from Pick Wayne’s Brain

Let’s imagine that you have a fantastic job that pays you one dollar for every second you work. There are 60 seconds in a minute and 60 minutes in an hour. If you were only getting paid for as 40-hour work week for all 52 weeks of the year, you would still be getting paid $7,488,000 in a year. And if you were getting your $1/sec rate for every second of the year, you would take in $31,536,000 for the entire year. At that rate, to earn a trillion dollars, you would have to work more than 31,709 years! And even if they magnanimously paid you $1,000/sec, it would still take you more than 31 years to earn that first $1 Trillion. They say the war in Iraq is costing taxpayers about $2 Billion dollars per week. There are 3,600 seconds in an hour, 24 hours in a day, and 7 days in a week for a total of 604,800 seconds per week. At $2 Billion per week, the Iraq War costs us over $3,000 every second! Can I borrow a couple of bucks for the rent this month?

My Official Net Buddy 4 Life

A message from Michael McKinlay

Today is Nick Ramsay’s birthday and because of this special day, I, Michael McKinlay, am guest authoring his blog. Nick is now 33 years old and over the past couple of years, I’ve really gotten to know Nick. So much so that I am his official net buddy 4 life. Don’t believe me? Why don’t you google “net buddy 4 life” and see what you get? Yep, it’s official. Our mantra much like Will Smith’s movie Bad Boys is “we surf together, we crash together!” Hmmm sounds a bit nerdy but I assure you that Nick is a bigger nerd than I am!

Anyway as you may have read Nick is moving his websites to his own virtual server. It sounds like its going to be messy but I’m sure he’ll get the job done! It’s unfortunate though since nobody will be able to comment on his blog until the process is completed, and who knows when that will be!

Nick is a stay at home dad in Japan of all places! Oh, he still has a job but it’s out there in cyberspace where electrons and neutrons clash to form the time vortex known as the internet. Nick has done quite a bit on the internet since giving up his day job and it will be interesting to see what he has going the next time his birthday comes around. Hmmmm I wonder…. I wonder!!!

Thanks NB4L! The server change is underway. Most of my sites now working on the new server. A few more to go, a few bugs to fix, and I’ve got to get my email working again, but hopefully it will all be done much sooner than expected, then I’ll open up the comments again. Update: Comments now open.

LongCountdown Turns 2 Years Old

It slipped me by this year, but on September 23rd, this blog turned two. That’s not long, but with the millions of blogs that don’t even last a year, it probably puts this site in the top 5% for blog longevity.

What I’m lacking though is post longevity, as these blog posts are getting shorter and shorter..

Happy Birthday LC! Without you, I’d have no fans! πŸ˜›

WordPress Pages and Babysitting Rikuto

What did I do today?

I made a math worksheet about bus timetables, then I spent the rest of the day babysitting Rikuto while his mum was at work. We watched some Olympic volleyball, then played in the street on his little Thomas the Tank Engine train.

Rikuto is suffering from diarrhea at the moment which means after holding him for a while, my arms smell of poo.

What did I learn today?

global $post;
if(is_page() && $post->post_parent) {
     echo "do something";
}

That little conditional works on WordPress. If you paste it into a page template, you can determine whether or not the page is a parent or child. It’s really saying, “If this is a page and it has a parent, it must be a child so (do something)”.

What did you learn today?

A Change of Direction for LongCountdown

I’m so active around the net these days that this blog is starting to gather dust. Probably the biggest reason is because I’m always on JapanSoc.com and the JapanSoc Community Blog. Usually, whenever I get the urge to talk about Japan, I turn to one of those two sites rather than my own blog. It’s much easier to post a one paragraph comment than put together a large blog post.

Another reason is I’m blogging once a week on my brother’s site, VirtualTripping.com. We each fly off to some remote location in Google Earth, take a photo and write about the place we visited. That’s something I enjoy doing at the weekend.

I’ve also been busy behind the scenes at JapanSoc…

  • I’ve set up a development site
  • I’ve been working on building a blog-sized FAQ
  • I’m setting up a social networking extension to JapanSoc with the exciting title, JapanSoc Groups.

This has led to me joining various computing forums to learn more about the technical side of things. Specifically, I’m a regular on the SWCMS forum and the Elgg Users Google Group.

So, where does that leave LongCountdown? Well, I’m going to try my hand at micro-blogging, i.e. posting small, regular updates on what I’m doing or working on. That should be quite manageable, even if it’s not as interesting to read as my exploits with stool samples.

I hope you stick around!

New LongCountdown Theme

For the first time in ages, I’ve decided to ditch my own homemade WordPress theme and use somebody else’s instead. I chose the Amazing Grace theme by Vladimir Prelovac, and spent most of the day customizing it. I think Vlad’s theme is one of the better free ones, and I chose it because it was WordPress 2.6 compatible, with support for widgets, gravatars and a few other features. Yes, Jason convinced me to upgrade to WordPress 2.6.

With the extra space, I’ve been able to bring back theΒ JapanSoc web widget and recent comments, as well as keeping the 20-man “Most Comments” list which I use as a dynamic blogroll.

I hope you like the theme. I do have another surprise up my sleeve, but I’ll keep you waiting for a while. πŸ˜‰

Smoke Free for 365 Days

July 1st marks one year since I put out my last cigarette, so on this fine occasion I thought I’d interview myself about life after smoking.

Were you a heavy smoker?

Not really. I smoked a pack a day for about ten years, but the later years were spent puffing on those incredibly light 1mg menthol things.

Why did you quit smoking?

Good question. It wasn’t for health or financial reasons. I decided to kick the habit because I was about to become a dad, and didn’t want to be smoking around a baby.

How did you quit?

10 weeks worth of nicotine patches did the trick. I had to get my Net Buddy 4 Life to bring them over from Canada because in Japan (until very recently), you had to see a doctor if you wanted patches.

Was it easy quitting?

The first few days were pretty tough, but after that, with the help of the patches it was easier than I thought. I should say that it was my third serious attempt at giving up, so I knew what to expect. Even a year later, I get the occasional urge for a cigarette, but have resisted so far.

Do you feel any healthier?

I was expecting to feel a lot healthier by now, but it hasn’t worked out that way. I’m not as short of breath as I used to be, and I don’t have much of a cough these days, but I don’t really feel all that different, which is kind of disappointing.

Was it worth it?

Although there’s the possibility of cigarettes tripling in price very soon, smoking in Japan is a very affordable habit, so I haven’t really benefited financially. However, saying that, being smoke free for a year did get me a discount on my life insurance payments.

As for my health, well it’s hard to judge how much I’ve extended my life. Smoking was a great pleasure, and I tend to think living a little less as a smoker would be more enjoyable than living a little longer as a non-smoker. For something as wonderful as smoking, I’m surprised companies aren’t falling over themselves to manufacture healthy cigarettes. They did it with coffee (decaf), chocolate (low fat) and cola (diet), but rather than people accepting low tar cigarettes, they ban smoking altogether! Go figure!

I would be very interested to see a peer reviewed study that proves secondhand smoke from a 1mg cigarette causes lung cancer. I just cannot believe it’s possible! Anyway…

Will you ever smoke again?

I really hope so. Either when I’m so old it won’t matter, or when the cost is so high that getting addicted again would be impossible. In the meantime, I’ll enjoy a wonderful side effect of not smoking… a belly! Yes, can you believe it? For the first time since puberty, I’ve actually gained some weight! I’ve tried in vein for nearly two decades to gain weight and at last, I have a whopping 62kgs hanging off my 6ft frame!

My New Office 2008

I previously wrote a post titled, My New Office 2007, in which I showed you a photo of what my home office looked like in January 2007. Here’s quick reminder:

My office in  January 2007

Although a bit messy, that layout served me quite well, but things got even more busy when I added an extra desk and a second monitor. Not only was I running out of space, but I couldn’t reach the dead cockroaches and centipedes that were falling behind the furniture after a quick blast of Gokki Jet Pro.

The time had come to apply the 80-20 rule.

What’s the 80-20 rule?

The Pareto principle (also known as the 80-20 rule, Haddad’s Theorem, the law of the vital few and the principle of factor sparsity) states that, for many events, 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. Business management thinker Joseph M. Juran suggested the principle and named it after Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto, who observed that 80% of income in Italy went to 20% of the population. It is a common rule of thumb in business; e.g., “80% of your sales comes from 20% of your clients.” Source: Wikipedia

In this case, I decided to throw out 80% of the things I use just 20% of the time, and keep the 20% of things I use 80% of the time. Here are the results:

Another picture of my office in June 2008

My office in June 2008

Okay, so maybe I didn’t quite reach 80%, but I did a good job, particularly clearing out the closets. In the end, I hauled two car loads of stuff, mostly old books, CDs and shelving, to the massive Kakamigahara incinerator where I said goodbye to a huge chunk of my past.

Now that my office has been detoxified, I feel refreshed and more productive than ever! So how about it? Have I convinced you to do the same?

8 Fabbertastic Facts About Nick Ramsay

In an effort to introduce himself to his fellow Japan bloggers, Chris G has written eight random facts about himself, including one about a dangerous Jurassic goose.

Chris has tagged me to do the same, so here we go…

8 fabbertastic facts about me

  1. I am incredibly forgetful.
  2. I wake up at the sound of a pin dropping.
  3. My favorite PC game of all-time is the Sim City series.
  4. I am incredibly forgetful.
  5. I once tried to sell brand new Japanese Pokemon cards on eBay for $100 each. I sold zero.
  6. I hate eggs. I’m not allergic. I just can’t stand them. The shape, smell, and even the name makes me shiver!
  7. When I was in primary school, I played Jesus in the musical β€œGodspell”. As I was hanging on the cross at the end, I wet myself, and my disciples got covered in wee as they carried me aloft, down the aisle between the audience.
  8. I once made $100 at a Japanese university by clapping my hands for two minutes. It was part of an experiment to compare how clapping styles differed between Japanese and non-Japanese.
  9. I once made $800 by giving blood, urine and stool samples at a Japanese medical clinic. It was part of an experiment to compare how blood-clotting differed between Japanese and non-Japanese.

Passing on the meme…

Let me pass on the baton to Shane, Deas, and Billy West.

Here are the rules:

  1. People who are tagged need to write a post containing 8 random facts about themselves.
  2. At the end of the post you should name several other bloggers to be tagged.
  3. Leave a comment for the bloggers and link to your own post.

Launching WritingWorkbooks.com

Since I wrote about my Dot Com Lifestyle, I’ve had people me asking exactly what I do for a living, and I even found my name mentioned along with mega-bloggers Darren Rowse, Steve Pavlina and John Chow, in author A. Dawn’s Personal Finance Journal! 😯

The latest project
I promised to keep you all informed about my latest website, Writing Workbooks, which I’ve been building with my mum. It’s full of handwriting practice workbooks which cover popular elementary school topics such as dinosaurs, the Titanic, hot air balloons and bears to name just a few. My mum was a primary school teacher for years so it made sense to lean on her for the content, and she’s very excited about signing up for Adsense and earning her first online income. Apparently though, she’s not in it for the money, she’s in it for the fame and groupies!

WritingWorkbooks.com

My thought processes

This isn’t a tutorial, so not everything I do can be applied to you own projects, but let me explain some of the things I try to aim for when making a new site.

Stick with the same niche

First, I usually choose a topic similar to one I’ve done before. That gives you an instant stream of visitors because you can direct your current traffic to your new site. I now have seven websites in the children’s education niche which attracted around 140,000 visitors last month. If those people aren’t interested in the content, they have three main choices: click the back button, click through to one of my other sites, or leave through an ad. I try carefully to keep visitors within my circle of sites as that increases the chances of them either bookmarking one of them, or earning me a few cents.

Squeeze the niche

Once I’ve got my topic, I “squeeze the niche”. That’s my term for targeting every page to your desired audience. The visitors I want are searching for “writing workbooks” or a variation on that, so I need to rank highly for that search term in Google and co. I registered the domain name writingworkbooks.com because most people who link to the site will use the title as their anchor text. The words used in incoming links are really important, and that’s why it’s common for people to rank highly for the name of their site. I’ve also used related keywords in the titles of every page on the site. This should show that the whole site is based on the same topic, which should give it more weight in search engine results.

Build it and leave it

Next, and this was mentioned before, I rarely build a website that requires ongoing work. This blog and JapanSoc always need some kind of contribution (especially spam busting!), but my other sites are finished. I think it defeats the purpose of running an internet business if you actually have to work. That’s not what the Dot Com Lifestyle is about! Ideally, you’ll make sites that take a few weeks to make and promote, but then you can leave them online to earn a passive income. That gives you time to spend with your family, or work on new projects to build up your online workforce.

Launch day

Finally, it’s time to launch. I actually had the site online over a month ago to give it time to get indexed by the search engines, and I made a sitemap and submitted it to Google through Webmaster Tools. Today, I linked all my other educational sites to this one, and put the word out on a number of education-related social bookmarking sites as well as Digg, StumbleUpon and Del.icio.us. That should spark a flurry of interest, and with a bit of luck the teachers and parents who will benefit most from WritingWorkbooks.com will bookmark it, link to it and discuss it in forums.

Where do we go from here?

I’ve nearly finished my contribution to the site, so I’m going to leave it up to my mum to promote it in her signature on teacher forums. Quite honestly, after typing up 800 handwriting worksheets, we are both suffering from Repetitive Strain Injury and could use a break… until the next project begins.

TV Viewing Figures vs. IQ Ranking by Country

Since coming to Japan, the amount of time I spend in front of the television has plummeted. I think it’s fair to say that I watch less than two hours of TV a week now. Some of you will find that hard to imagine, but it’s not surprising when everything on TV is in a foreign language.

The internet as an alternative to TV

These days I get my entertainment fix from the internet, and keep informed about the world via the web, too, but there’s a big difference between TV and the internet. For starters, you can choose what to read, and what to believe. Television doesn’t give you that choice, imposing its own version of the news on you.

That means the internet gives you a more well-rounded view of the world, drawn from multiple sources. Also, actively reading a news article on the web gives you a better understanding of the topic than passively digesting information from TV. Of course, you also have the power to research the topic further on the net.

Does TV have a negative effect on IQ?

I managed to track down two charts, one listing countries by TV viewing times, and the other by estimated IQ, and while there’s no perfect correlation to show TV makes you stupid, the results are still interesting.

TV viewing times by country

The U.S leads the way, with TV addiction consuming over 8 hours a day of the average American’s life. Turkey comes next with 5 hours, and those wacky game shows encourage the Japanese to watch close to 4 hours of TV a day.

As for IQ…

IQ rankings by country

South Koreans, who watch just a little over 3 hours of TV a day, are second only to the geniuses of Hong Kong. Japan, a country whose citizens watch half as much TV as Americans, are ranked as the third most intelligent nation. Our friends, the drooling couch potatoes from the U.S., rank a lowly 23rd.

This argument holds no water!

I’m plucking at straws here trying to make a case that television fries your brain, and my argument falls apart when you consider Ireland. The Irish watch just two and a half hours of TV a day, but are only the 36th most intelligent country in the world! All I can assume is that the free time gained from watching less TV is obviously wasted at the pub, rather than swatting up on world issues on the internet.

I am stunned that the average American watches over 8 hours of TV a day. No wonder they are so fat! It makes me wonder how many hours of commercials they are exposed to everyday…. wow…

[poll id=”6″]

My Dot Com Lifestyle in Japan

I was reading John Chow’s article, with accompanying video, The Dot Com Lifestyle, and it prompted me to write a little about my own work-at-home life.

My work commitments

I was an English teacher for ten years, working six days a week, and thinking I was lucky because I only worked for five or six hours in the evenings and had decent holidays. Still, I was more passionate about the internet than teaching, so two years ago I started building some websites, and I turned to the internet full-time in January this year.

Now, my only commitments are one class a week at a kindergarten, and some curriculum work for an international school which I can do from home. Besides that, I have complete time freedom.

What I do to keep busy

An afternoon at the park with RikutoWhile I may have time freedom, I still have to pay the bills somehow, so I’m constantly working away on one of my websites, trying to build it up so it becomes more competitive and attracts more visitors. This doesn’t mean I’m chained to my desk, though. I often sleep in until 10am, work for a couple of hours in my pajamas, have some lunch, do some more work, go for a walk and play with Rikuto for an hour or so, do a bit more work and then finish up at around 6pm.

No longer do I have to put on a shirt and tie, I don’t have to drive to and from school. I don’t have to smile all the time, and I don’t have to shave so often! An added perk is I can avoid all the busy times by going shopping, doing banking, etc. when everyone else is working.

What keeps me motivated

I have come to realize that I don’t need a lot of money to enjoy this lifestyle, so it’s not really the money that motivates me. My natural passion for all things webby is more than enough to keep me at my desk, although knowing my wife and son are counting on me to provide for them is also a factor!

With a 9-month old boy, my wife stays at home, too, so that puts me in the really unique position of being a work-at-home dad who gets to spend all his time with his stay-at-home wife and son.

Am I lucky or what?

I truly am grateful to the internet for giving me a chance to break free from the daily grind and have so much time with my family. It kind of saddens me to see people, especially all those salarymen, slugging away at jobs they don’t enjoy, just because it’s considered the “norm”.

Motivating my readers

Earning a sufficient income on the internet is difficult, but you don’t need to suddenly quit your job and throw yourself into it. Set yourself tiny goals to begin with, such as $5 a month, $10 a month, and go from there. I remember how excited I was when I put ads on my site and earned 11 cents! Everyone’s reaction was “Big deal… 11 cents… Who cares?”, but to me, I had made money on the internet and I wanted more than anything to see that figure grow and grow.

If you need anymore motivation, have a read of my all-time favorite Steve Pavlina article, 10 Reasons You Should Never Get a Job. And remember, money does grow on tress, you just have to plant them yourself! πŸ™‚

Ramsay Ramblings 4/30/2008

I’ve been feeling pretty grotty this last week. First Rikuto “got the byouki”, then Mami “got the byouki”, and now I’ve “got the byouki”. Although I’d love to sing a song about “getting the byouki” (getting sick), I’ll spare you this week, and share some more Ramsay Ramblings instead.

Magnitude 7 Earthquake Virtually Hits Gifu

Since my net buddy, Mike McKinlay came to visit last week, I took him to the Gifu Prefecture Regional Disaster Management Center for a free ride on the earthquake simulator. If you’ve never been on one, you really should try. I’m convinced my house would fall over if the big one hits. I’ll blog about our trip at a later date, but if you can’t wait, there’s this Japanese map that might help you find one in your area.

Fujita Yukihisa Keeps Pressing for 9/11 Answers

Remember that DPJ politician who grilled the Japanese Prime Minister about World Trade Center 7 and other suspicious events surrounding the September 11th terrorist attacks? Well, he’s back at it again, this time asking whether the government knew about the FBI’s Most Wanted page for Osama Bin Laden, which due to no evidence, makes no mention of 9/11. Of course, it will all be forgotten if the May Day terror drills go live! 😯

Reinstalling Windows Vista

I’m usually singing the praises of Microsoft’s latest OS, but I ran into a brick wall last week when I couldn’t download and install Service Pack 1. It went like clockwork on my wife’s computer, but I had to take advantage of Microsoft’s one-on-one tech support to get it working on my machine. “MS Betty” as I like to call her, was very helpful but her directions led me to an accidental reinstall, and I’m still getting things back to normal now. On the bright side, SP1 is now working, and better than that, Microsoft seem to have fixed the problems with IE7, so at last I can dump this poor excuse for a browser, Firefox, and go back to IE! πŸ˜›

Professional baby photos

We took Rikuto to Studio Alice for some professional photos today, and all I can say is “wow”. These guys know every trick in the book to persuade you into spending as much as possible. I’m still only at the beginning of Robert Cialdini’s The Psychology of Influence and Persuasion, but I recognized a few of the “weapons of influence” such as automatic shortcuts, e.g. See Disney character = Must take photo; the use of the contrast principle, e.g. Really expensive photos make expensive photos look cheap, and the rule of reciprocation, e.g. Make my son laugh and we will feel obligated to buy more. The whole “sales” experience was really impressive, and despite me knowing their secrets, they took me for $160! Anyway, we’ll get the photos in a couple of weeks and I’ll be sure to post them here.

Ramsay Ramblings 4/21/2008

Is the weekend over already? Time seems to be flying these days. We are well into spring and the suzumushi (bell crickets) are piercing my brain with their high pitched singing. It must be time for some more Ramsay Ramblings!

5 yen a bag, or take a box for free!

Free cardboard boxes at supermarkets near you now!Today, my mother-in-law came by for a visit, but before she did, she stopped off to buy some groceries. Now, in some parts of the country, perhaps at selected supermarkets, they are charging 5 yen for every shopping bag you use. Apparently, by encouraging people to bring their own reusable bags, supermarkets can reduce the “billions of plastic bags [that] are choking our planet” (reuseablebags.com).

Personally, I’m not convinced that shoppers will take the bait, and supermarkets will make a small fortune off these 5 yen bag sales… or will they? It turns out that my mother-in-law opted for a free cardboard box, rather than pay the 5 yen!

Yes, free cardboard box. Why pay for a plastic bag when you can get a cardboard box for free? πŸ™„

Mike McKinlay stuck in Seattle for 24 hours

Net Buddy 4 Life, Mike McKinlay, should have been in Japan by now on the start of his three-week vacation. However, when I opened my email box, I got this…

Hey net buddy… I’m in Seattle right now.. and yes I’ve missed my plane.. remember that snow storm in Calgary? Well that probably made our plane late which made us miss our connection… Don’t ever complain to me about high winds ruining your honeymoon flight again! Sure, you missed your connections, but this has caused me a full 24 hour delay! Actually, nothing really good happened today… more bad news that I can tell you about later when i see you!

Mike, if you’re reading this from an airport somewhere, our thoughts are with you! Be strong Net Buddy!

Watch out or I’ll spam you!

I’m a regular commentator over on Jason Irwin‘s blog, but it seems I’m leaving comments without even knowing about it! In his post, Spammers Are Getting Stupid-er-er, Jason uses an example of someone spamming his site as me! Take a look, it really is amazing how far people will go these days!

Which looks better?

Don’t think for more than two seconds. Just look at these screen shots and tell me which you prefer.

Comparing Math Worksheet Wizard Styles

Those pictures are from my Math Worksheet Wizard website. I prefer one color/logo scheme while my wife prefers the other. This is what I do with my time. I make math worksheets. I’ve finished the kindergarten section and have most of first grade done. At this pace, I should have the whole elementary school math curriculum done by the end of September. Okay, I’m not a math teacher, but fortunately my mum is, and she’s kindly helping me along. Thanks mum! πŸ™‚

That wraps up another Ramsay Ramblings. Thanks for reading!

Do You Read Self-Help Books?

How to Win Friends & Influence PeopleI don’t read many books. I usually prefer to strain my eyes and induce headaches by reading content on the web. Right now, however, I am half way through How to Win Friends and Influence People, a book written by Dale Carnegie in 1936!

Disclaimer: The above link is an Amazon affiliate link and yes, I am trying to make a quick buck off my readers. However, at least the photo shows I do actually own the book, unlike some people who recommend products they’ve never even bought, and right now you can get a used copy for a low as $0.01, so sue me! πŸ˜›

Pass the mind control

Lately I’ve been reading up on brainwashing techniques, the rules of disinformation, and the psychology of influence and persuasion. Although such “powers” can be quite evil, wouldn’t it be amazing to have such control over people? Television shows are full of this stuff, putting you into a more suggestible state with timed beats, changes in volume and video that shifts your awareness from beta (left-side of the brain) to alpha (right-side).

Today’s media-oriented politicians and spellbinders are often carefully trained by a whole new breed of specialist who are using every trick in the book–both old and new–to manipulate you into accepting their candidate.

Brainwashing the dishes

Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People doesn’t get that heavy, focusing more on being a good listener, asking the right questions, and winning people over to your way of thinking. It may sound deceitful, but it’s all about being happy and making other people happy, so that’s got to be good, right?

First up, I’m going to practice on my wife. Maybe I can convince her that household chores are fun! Then, I’m going to see if I can use these tips to win a few text-based debates on the internet. Finally, I’ll try to woo my way into earning millions of billions of dollars, and getting elected president of a small country or something.

Do you read self-help books? If so, what kind? Have they actually helped you?

Maru Batsu Survey #1

Maru Batsu - Yes or No?There’s a popular Japanese website called Kotonoha OX Social, a simple Yes/No survey site, where O (maru) means Yes and X (batsu) means No. The concept is simple and fun, so I thought I’d tie it in with my usual ramblings and ask you to give OX answers to the following topics which have been on my mind lately.

1. Jason is onto a winner with The Carbon Blog – O or X?

The Carbon BlogHere’s a quote from Jason’s new project, The Carbon Blog:

There are scammers all over the world trying to cash in on our concern for the environment, so it’s my duty to sift through the crap and show the world the best and the worst ways to combat global climate change.

Providing Jason can get the word out and come up with enough material, which shouldn’t be a problem with the current push for an eco-friendly world, The Carbon Blog has great potential.

Nick’s verdict: O

2. EMobile will shake up Japan’s cell phone industry – O or X?

EMobileA new phone carrier called EMobile has jumped into the Japanese cell phone market, offering handsets with no subscription fee! You just pay when you use the phone.

Planning to disrupt what it believes is a static phone industry, startup carrier EMobile today announced its first service plans for its home country of Japan. Instead of requiring a monthly fee or having customers buy prepaid blocks of time, the new service will operate largely on a metered system. [Source]

My wife and I are at home all the time, so we rarely use our phones. If anyone could benefit from a subscription-fee-free service, it’s people like us.

Nick’s verdict: O

3. The desktop computer is an endangered species – O or X?

An old desktop computerApparently I’m on Sony’s spam mailing list and today they sent me an article titled “Twilight of the Desktop Computer?” by EQ Magazine editor, Craig Anderton. He says:

Laptops always used to be like the little brother who was eager to help with the chores, but couldn’t actually do all that much. While fine for running spreadsheets and word processors, or filing sales reports from the road, no one considered a laptop as viable for music production or video editing.

He then goes on to say “it’s clear that today’s high-end laptops can do what all but the best desktop computers can do.” So is this the end for the desktop computer? I spent a pretty penny on my desktop and can’t imagine getting the same performance for the same price from a laptop… just yet.

Nick’s verdict: X

4. Osama Bin Ladin is dead – O or X?

He was murdered!Some people think he’s alive, others believe he was killed years ago, but I only recently saw the video of Pakistan’s assassinated Benazir Bhutto tell the BBC’s David Frost that the “world’s most wanted man” had been murdered. The interview was aired in full on Al Jazeera, but when it was shown on the BBC, the bit about the murder had been edited out. It was quite bizarre, and I’ll let you draw your own conclusions. You can see the full interview here.

Nick’s verdict: O

5. Anpanman is dead – O or X?

RIP Anpanman?Continuing the morbid topic of death, Deas has reported that one of the most popular cartoon characters in Japan, Anpanman, has been found at the foot of a cliff on the shore of Hakata island. The man with a head made of bread is known for one of his more unusual super powers:

When Anpanman comes across a starving creature or person, he lets the unfortunate creature or person eat part of his head. [Source]

But can it be true? Is Anpanman really dead? I think not… unfortunately.

Nick’s verdict: X

That wraps up my first Maru Batsu survey, let me see your thoughts, Os and Xs in the comments!

Apologies for “Unscheduled Maintenance”

Cannot connectLet me take a moment to apologize for the 6+ hours of downtime my websites experienced today. When I woke up and switched on my computer at 8:00 am, it was already impossible to connect to any of my sites (of which I have a dozen, serving around 8,000 visitors on a typical Tuesday). The problem wasn’t resolved until mid-afternoon, and a few connection difficulties persist as I write this.

I have been promised a written apology and explanation, but all I have been told so far is that the server had “unscheduled maintenance”. I blame the lack of communication on what is obviously outsourced tech support. πŸ™„

Thank you to those of you who called or emailed to let me know the sites were down. I promise to buy you Mars bars and baked beans when I visit England this year.