Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Customizing the Layout of Your Blog Page

Missed the Happy Run last Sunday, so I thought I'd write something useful (or something I found useful at least). This is a bit techie and not for the faint of heart but if this is something you've been meaning to do but never got around to doing because it's just so morbidly tedious, and could never figure out were to start, you're in luck my gentle readers and casual passersby, here's a step-by-step procedure on how to do it.

First a bit of background. You know how blog pages seem to be divided into 3 column? The middle column being your blog/widgets/bling-bling and the two other column besides it that are just gaping wasted empty space? Yeah, well, it's been bothering me of late. It makes my post look longer and imposing than it actually is. So I thought I'd dig in and click my way through into changing the layout of my blog. Surprise! surprise! Turns out the changing blog layout is a lot more complicated than it looks. And it ain't pretty boys and girls.

So if you're using Blogspot and wanted to change it, here's how you would do it. As soon as you log in to your account.
  1. Click on the 'Customize' link on the upper-right corner of your blog.
  2. There are 3 tabs there (Posting, Settings and Layout).
  3. Click the Layout tab. Under the Layout tab, there 4 sub-tabs there (Page Elements, Fonts and Colors, Edit HTML, and Pick New Template).
  4. Click "Edit HTML" tab, and you should now see the "Edit Template" and right below is the code for your blog web page.
Now this is where it gets nasty. Gone are the days when you simply edit HTML tags. Nowadays, you gotta know some serious CSS kung-fu if you want to get some loving out of non-trivial web pages like Blogspot. Now, I may not know enough CSS kung-fu but I'm a Ninja! "If there was a problem yo I'll solve it. Check out the 'hood while my DJ revolves it! Ice Ice Bebe.." Yo! Y'know what I'm saying Bro?!

Now CSS file might be beloved among web developers and can pass off as your regular, ordinary config file but it's not. It's a bane for normal people trying to take ownership of web pages freely hosted somewhere in the wholly wild world of Internet (hehe, define irony). It's cryptic, indecipherable and perilous to go near them. Fortunately, we only need to change a couple of the settings and not create one from scratch. So here's the basic format to keep in mind when changing the settings:

Selector { Properties: Values; }

The Selector is an identifier to certain part of your web page. The Properties are a way to control those certain part of your web page. The Values is of course the actual settings you change.

Below are the basic settings you need to change. The highlighted text is the modification you need to make. Your mileage might vary of course but so does our aesthetic taste :-) so play around till you get the right layout for you.

#header-wrapper {
width: 990px;
margin:0 auto 10px;
border:1px solid $bordercolor;

#outer-wrapper {
width: 1000px;
margin:0 auto;
font: $bodyfont;

#main-wrapper {
width: 700px;
float: $startSide;
word-wrap: break-word;
overflow: hidden;

Change, save, refresh and voilĂ ! Your newly customize layout, just the way you wanted it.

And now here's before and after pic. Happy Hacking mga kapatid!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

PSE Bull Run (10K)

First race of the year and almost missed it :-) In my usual jologs fashion, I went to registered at PSE in Ortigas at the last minute (uhm... actually an hour before they close shop). As this is the first race to be held in the metro for this year, you can imagine the pent-up demand for this race (think New Year's Resolution meet first opportunity). At the PSE office, they told me that they've already run out of registration form. Bummer... but never fear they're still accommodating runners who hasn't officially register for the race event. Bless they're heart! For runners who missed out the registration, they can still join the PSE Fun Run but sans any bib/singlets/office race time. Ok na rin yun.

So after over a month of slacking off, I'm running my first race of the year. The PSE Bull Run. The race was held at The Fort, a favorite among race organizers. The route used for the 10K run was an old and familiar nemesis of mine, the slopping terrain of McKinley Hills. The weather perfect for running and everyone at the starting line was in festive mood.

At the race, I started slow at 8.20 pace (that's practically crawling) for first two kilometers, then gradually pick speed to catch up with main body. For my next few races (and non-major races) I'll stick to this routine. The idea being to finish a slow/strong race (albeit slower than my usual race time) but recuperate faster. A normal race for me where I try to push it will take me 3 to 4 days to recuperate before I can hit the road again (I'm getting old, I know). But with this strategy I can hit the pool or gym/rpm the next day and run the day after and dispense with 3 to 4 days of rest. Good, no?

By my watch, I finished 1:00:12 for the 10K run at 6.04 pace. Also, by my watch 10K distance was 9.91km but what's a few meters between friends :-)

There's a couple of constructive criticism to be said about this race, but it wouldn't be my place to say so considering that they let me run for free and not be an ignominious bandit. So I'll leave the constructive criticism to others far more articulate than I and those that shelled out their money to join the race. Though I'd like to emphasize some of the good things they did at this race.

1. A separate Fun Run with no entry fee in parallel with the real PSE Bull Run (running in the same route). Now this is fairly new among the races I've joined. Normally, you'd be considered as a running bandit if you didn't pay for the registration fee, so the Fun Run but san any bib/singlet/official time, is definitely a good thing.

Just a few thoughts though. First, bear in mind that the vast majority of runners in race events are more than happy to pay for the registration fee, considering how very reasonable the registration fees are. _BUT_ what's reasonable to others might not be for others who's economic prospect is not as fortunate. It was a fluke that I got to run in the unofficial PSE Bull Run, it was ok but I'm not keen for a repeat in future races. I like the bib, having my name in the finisher list (even some of the tacky singlet) too much :-) Though it would be a great gesture from race organizers if they could implement something similar.

Kudos to the PSE Bull Run organizer for having this option!

2. Professional entertainers at the stage after the race. Far too often they have race organizers also acting as the entertainers, uhm... yeah. At PSE, they had this one dude name Lucas, he was at the stage working the crowd and then belting out some tacky Pinoy jingles. At first, I thought his comedy spiel was grating to the nerves, so it took me a while to warm up to the guy and realize that ... it's a jolog brother! Definitely in the mold of my old idol. The most awesome of awesome... Ang kilabot ng mga kababaihan Filipina... April Boy Regino! The Man! Anyways, the point being, leave serious entertainment to those who hone their craft :-)

Over all, there were some valid concerns that should be address by the organizer, that said, I'm fan of the sponsors/organizers of this race for their great gesture of lettings runner who weren't able to register to still run (unofficially) at the race. May your tribe thrive! Kudos to the folks that push this "public service", looking forward to next year's PSE Bull Run!

No pic for this race yet, I didn't have my camera with me but couple of the guys there did, so what's a jologs to do? Hehe, why ask of them of course :-) So as soon as Wilbert or Gigi post their race recap, I'll ask them.

... and so I've ask! Shout out to Wilbert and Gigi for letting me swipe their pics. Danke! :-)

Clockwise: Vener, Sir Ipe, Bobby, Gene, Jay (hidden), Wilbert's back. After-race at the Finish line.

Clockwise: That's me, Jay, Gigi, Bobby, Sir Ipe, Wilbert. Breakfast at Mcdo.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Fav Tools For A Richer Blogging Experience

[Note: If you're having problems viewing the pictures, just point your mouse at the pic and click. If you're still having problems, leave a note and I'll check it out]

I've been using this Web 2.0ish online journal called Daily Mile to log my running and fitness regimen. Very nifty tool. First saw reference to it from runningdatc's blog. I thought I'd also share some of blogging tools I find indispensable or at least those I couldn't live without. It's always good to share something that other people might find useful, good karma points. So here it is boys and girls, 'hope you find it as useful as I do.
  1. Web Analytics
  2. News Aggregator
  3. Google Alert
1. Web Analytics. These are tools that allows you to collate, measure and analyze data or 'hits' on your web pages. There's plenty of them around but I use Google's own analytic tool since it plays well with other Google apps. Here's snapshot:

Wordpress have a built-in but limited web analytics tools but for a richer set of data that you can slice and dice, go with a real web analytic tools. I had 3,589 page view for the last 7 months, using web analytics it allows me to mine my stats for some really interesting tidbits.

Example: One-third of my visitors came from outside Philippines (ie. US, UK, Singapore, Germany) and these are repeat visitors! (I didn't bore them to tears :-)) Of course I have to quantify that by saying that most of these visits abroad was source from other blogs, so a lot of it was referral. So for instance, half of readers from US were initially reading SFrunner's blog before heading to my site. Mucho gracias Wayne! Now for readers outside US, it's been mostly organic (via Google/Blogspot/direct). They somehow came upon my blog and came back for more (aw shucks). Now here is an interesting part, based from their network location/Internet gateway a lot of them are reading my blog at work! Hehe, how cool is that? :-)

Web analytics is good tool, use it track your traffic and get some really interesting perspective.

2. News Aggregators/RSS Readers. This topic came up briefly at the last Christmas dinner with runner bloggers/friends. From the looks of it, hardly anyone uses these tools (except for one or two guys), everyone either manually check blog updates or go to sites or blogs that have this small newsreel app that display brief headlines/updates of other blogs that the author follows. This is where news aggregrators comes in, it enables you to follow news sites, blogs and other RSS/Atom-enabled websites without using your web browser to check for updates.

Let me put it in perspective: When I started blogging I only keep track a small number of bloggers. Must read in my list are the rock stars (The Bull, The Bald, and Bards) plus a few other blogs, so that's a total of 7 or 8 blogs that I manually visit a week. Not bad. Fast forward a few months, a running boom and parallel jump in the number of people blogging their running experience. So now I keep track of close to 30 blogs. Now imagine keeping track this number of blogs manually... yeah not good. And that's where aggregators shines. It aggregates blog updates and pull them to your news reader to be read at your convenience. Really, this is more of a productivity tool than anything else although I'd hardly call keeping track of various blogs productive :-)

(Hmm... I'm starting to feel like I'm pontificating or something) Now, in case it hasn't sunk in how incredibly useful this tool is. Check this snap shot carefully.

Notice anything special? Yep, a single repository for all your favorite blogs. Blue means number of unread articles. Red means new post based on chronological order. How's that for productivity? :-) I use Akregator from KDE. For Windows check here. For Mac check here. Or just use Google Reader. Bonus points: you also avoid those bling-bling that bloggers are so fond of.

3. Google Alerts. These are alerts sent to you based on the search items that you've defined. Technically, this is not really a blogging tool, mostly just one of those tool you keep handy for some nefarious end (kidding :-)). So let's say you want to keep track of particular topic or update from any of the web sites, news, blogs or mailing lists (even video sites), this tool will track it for you. If any of these sites posted your "search items" an email notification is sent to you. I use it as personal tracker for any mentioned of my name in the web, you'd be surprise the things it can track and come up with. The little tool that could. So... wanna track your High School principal? Yep, this tool is badass.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

New Year and Resolution!

Ho ho ho! 2009 is here, time for your fav wish list/new year's resolution. As usual, I have accumulated quite a list (most of them being freshly recycled from last years' old resolutions) hmm... pero teka teka the problem with starting with a bang is that you're most likely to end up with a thud. So what I'll do is just list down the most 'manageable' resolution, nothing fancy or overly imaginative and just stick to it come hell or high tide.
  • Run 3x a week using the FIRST method
  • Do a marathon in 2009 (two if I can do the above consistently)
  • Blog more (5 or more post a month)
  • 2009 is flat out going to rock!
There, it shouldn't be that difficult for a serial procrastinator jologs from the block like myself.

Happy New Year and Happy Running Everyone! See you all at the races!