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.
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!
Note: I’m writing this at nearly 5am. It’s been a long night of upgrading the site and I know there are some loose ends. The FAQ and blog will be updated in due course, and any bugs you find (there are always some) will be eventually squashed. Oh, and I deleted all your profile bios by accident, sorry about that! 😛
Before I give you a run-down of the new features, let me give a big, big thank you to Chris Gaunt of Nihongo Notes and J-Pop Japan. Chris just happens to be a multi-talented web developer, who completely rewrote the JapanSoc template. That’s no easy task when you consider a typical Social Web CMS template weighs in at over 60 files. I can’t thank Chris enough for the work he’s put into the site over the last month, and I’ll be using his services again in the near future. Chris does a lot of freelance work, particularly for WordPress and Ruby on Rails sites. He’s also a PHP wizard and can dazzle with CSS. Learn more about what Chris can do for your site on his LinkedIn profile.
The engine that powers JapanSoc is Social Web CMS, an open source project which I’ve become heavily involved this last year, developing over 20 modules and contributing to the SWCMS SVN. Together with Chris, we are quite a formidable team! 😀
I’ve split the categories into a few very generic groups, and using the drop-down “Suckerfish” menu makes it easy for us to add more categories, not to mention them being much more accessible than before.
4. Easy Submit button
When you click on the new submit button, a little drop-down box opens where you can directly add the url you want to submit.
5. Enhanced sidebar comments
Not only is there a little avatar next to each comment, when you hover the mouse over the comments in the sidebar, a tooltip shows you the name of the commentator and the title of the post the comment was made on. Very handy!
6. Avatars have gone Gravatar
I ran a poll recently to find out whether you preferred to use Gravatar or upload your own avatar. The response was clearly in favor of Gravatar, so we’ve dropped the uploading feature altogether. That’s a good thing because it saves you from faffing around with avatars, it saves me from fixing bad uploads, and it gives the site more flexibility in how avatars are used.
7. Nice4Rice or an umeboshi?
I used to have a website called “Nice4Rice” which I customized to allow readers to get a free backlink by “giving rice” to my reviews. It was a lot of fun and I miss that site a bit. Fortunately, I kept hold of the original Nice4Rice rice bowls and have used them in comment ratings!
If you like a comment or agree with it, give the author some rice! If it left a bad taste in your mouth, an umeboshi would be more appropriate. Of course, this is just cosmetic and three umeboshi will still bury a comment.
8. Filter comments to your friends
You’ll see in that image above a small link that reads “Show friends’ comments only”. If you click that, all comments from people not on your friends list will temporarily be hidden. You can view them individually by clicking the show/hide link, or just click the “Show all comments” link to view them all again.
9. Filter stories to your friends
Why limit it to comments? On the top menu bar, logged in users will see a new page called “Friends”. Clicking that will filter all the latest stories to show only those from your friends.
10. HTML in comments
BBCode has been an option for a while now on JapanSoc, but very few people used it. I’m not really surprised because we’re all so used to WordPress comments. With that in mind, we dropped BBCode (which has left a bit of mess) and now allow limited HTML tags in comments, just like WordPress. Smilies can still be used, and I’ve added a link to Ken’s Evoticon site which opens in a new tab so you can copy and paste so zany Japanese emoticons, too!
11. Subscribe to comments
This is one of my favorite new features. Instead of just allowing the story submitter to subscribe to replies, now anyone who comments has the choice of getting reply notifications sent to their email box.
12. The Social Bar
This is the big one! Far and away the most significant addition to JapanSoc is the social bar. When you log in, you’ll see the social bar glued to the foot of your window, showing your own user stats and links to your inbox, profile and settings.
13. Send a Quick Message
In the Social Bar is a Quick Message icon which gives you an instant messaging form so you can send out to your friends. Whenever you send a message, your friend will be notified by email (unless they turn off email notification), and if you get a message, the inbox icon will light up to indicate you have mail. How very convenient!
14. View other users in the Social Bar
The best thing about the Social Bar is that when you click on somebody’s username or avatar, anywhere on the site, their user info will be loaded into your Social Bar with a spot of Ajax so you don’t even leave the page.
Clicking the avatar or name here will take you to their main profile, but you can also use this bar to add or remove the user from your friends list, send them a message, visit their homepage, their Twitter page, look at their JapanSoc favorites, see if they are currently online, or return to your own Social Bar stats.
15. New-look Profiles
We’ve decided to drop the MySpace style profile and keep things simpler, but more focused on getting you connected with the viewer.
As you can see, your own sites and social network profiles get loads of attention, as do your friends and fans who will appear in your Social Bar with just one click! These are the icons Deas came up with, and there are others for Lang-8, LinkedIn and iKnow! too.
The Top Users box in the sidebar has been fun to watch over the last year, but what happens when everyone’s a Yokozuna? JapanSoc Sumo no longer ends at Yokozuna. When you get 15,000 points, you’ll be moved to the Oyakata box, a sumo stable of fame! Hat tip to Jordan for the suggestion.
That’s about all of the major changes, though there are many smaller ones, too! Remember, you have to be logged in to enjoy most of the new features, so if you haven’t registered yet, please do! Visit JapanSoc.com.
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 the 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. 😉
With the new year getting closer, I thought it was time to give LongCountdown.com a new look. Most people like to use the freely available themes you can get for the WordPress blogging platform. I, on the other hand, prefer to get my hands dirty and hack into the code.
Before I explain the changes, here’s a picture of what this site used to look like:
Wait! What’s that little baby doing there?
Firstly, some of you might be wondering why there’s a little image of Rikuto in the bottom-right corner of that screenshot. That’s a little bonus for IE7 users. No matter how you resize the window or scroll, Rikuto will always be watching you from the corner. I change the picture every now and then so you can watch him grow! Needless to say, Ricky is joining us in this new theme.
No more rounded corners and fewer Google ads
The main “article” area is exactly the same, but you’ll notice I’ve gone for a slightly more minimalistic look by using more white and scrapping the the rounded corners on all those yellow boxes. I still think the page looks crowded, but I did get rid of quite a lot. First to go was the Google Adsense skyscraper. I already have Google ads on the site, and thought the addition of a skyscraper was just too much.
Next was the PunkyMoods face that showed my mood. I found it quite amusing at first, but then changing it everyday became more of a chore than a pleasure. After that, I decided to scrap the whole middle column and make the other one much wider. Unfortunately, that meant losing my blogroll and categories list.
Sorry LongCountdown Blogrollees
Let me take a moment to apologise to those of you who were in my blogroll. Quite honestly, I didn’t like how WordPress handled the blogroll anyway, so thought it best to move all the links to the Sitemap page. If this means you see a drop in traffic, please let me know. Some of you are in the Top Commentators list, which I’ve made more prominent than before by moving it right up to the top of the sidebar.
Update: Dynamic blogroll for Japan Bloggers
I felt sorry for the Japan blogging community who lost their site-wide backlinks when I moved the blogroll. To make up for it, I’ve added a dynamic list of feeds imported from the blogs of JapanSoc users. If 70% or more of your blog is about Japan, register for JapanSoc, then contact me to get your blog’s feed included in the list.
Extended Live Archive on the Sitemap page
The Sitemap page is actually just the old Archives page, but since I’ve been blogging for well over a year, I needed a better way of organising the archives. Fortunately I found a plugin called Extended Live Archive for self-hosted WordPress blogs. It uses Ajax to squeeze all your articles into something manageable. (Note: If you want to use this plugin, make sure you get these modified files so you can include tag support in WordPress 2.3 or above).
The LongCountdown logo gets Japanified!
Other changes include a new logo (a red clock on a white background to represent my life counting down in Japan), a banner to promote JapanSoc, and a font change for the links in the sidebar. Here’s a picture of how it looks at the time of writing:
Mami loves it!
With all that done, I just hope my readers like it. At least my wife says it’s easier on the eyes, so as long as she’s happy, I’m happy! 😀
I love this video of a popular Japanese double-act Tetsu & Tomo. The music is from the variety show ‘Shouten’. Watch and laugh, and if you can’t view the video, you can see it here at youtube.com.
I’ve become a fan of Japanese TV now that I’m married and live with the TV on permanently. While many people think that the Japanese are expression-less, everything on TV is really exagerrated. There’s a lot of Tom and Jerry style comedy with people hitting each other around the head, and over-reacting to things like how delicious food is on cooking shows.
All this makes it much easier for a foreigner to understand what’s going on. I find British comedy very clever in its use of words, but Japanese comedy is very visual and will have you in stitches!