The Roundup

So as promised, here I am with a Roundup post to try and collect all the little tidbits of randomness that happened over the last three weeks I wasn’t posting. Thus, without further ado…

Banana Republic Whore

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There’s like $50 USD worth of gift reward cards here…

I’ve said it before, but I am a total Banana Republic Whore. In the course of about 2 years, I went from never ever setting foot in a Banana Republic to having about 70% of my wardrobe comprised of BR clothes. Say what you will about Banana Republic, but I really appreciate that they were the first brand to make nice clothing for men in a size not normally reserved for the anorexic/European. Usually with guy’s clothing, once you get above a size 34/36 waist or a 42 inch chest, you’re relegated to the ugliest off the rack multi-pleated, garish-pattered crap in the wal-mart or – heaven forbid – the “big and toll” shop. (shudder). I appreciate that BR was the first widely accessible “mid-tier” (read: not cheap crap, not name brand) retailer to recognize that not all guys – including those with a waist size slightly larger than that of the average woman – want to dress in pleated Docker Khakis and a horribly baggy polo shirt (*shudder x 57 million*) when going to work or going out.

Anyway, I reward this initiative with my undying loyalty, but ummm…. I might be starting to have a problem. Above you can see three “Banana Republic Gift Cards”. Holders of the Banana Republic credit card (which umm… I am. And, I’m ashamed to admit, not the ” basic” card either…) get one of these for every $200 USD they spend. As you can see… I have a lot of these cards. And that’s just what I’ve accumulated in the past 4 1/2 months…

*sigh* The say the first step is admitting you have a problem…

Tokyo Saturday

As alluded to in yesterday’s post, I spent all of Saturday puttering around Tokyo with the lovely B.A. (of Thundar Dolphan and Kamakura Adventure fame). We didn’t get up to anything spectacular, save for a book shop (wherein I sought to buy a copy of Foreign Affairs, only to be shocked at its $20USD price…!) and coffee at my favoritest cafe in all of Japan, but it wouldn’t be much of a blog entry without some random pictures.

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B.A. posing next to very very large picture of a very very angry looking girl…

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Santa Claus hat or tea coddie? You be the judge!

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I love heavyweight plain white ceramic teaware…

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…the angry girl from above was apparently part of a theme of people’s faces plastered against walls in an area in Shinjuku station under renovation

France

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Photo taken by the lovely Karen

Winter is boring and I miss traveling, so I decided – what the hell, let’s go to France (and possibly England). It sounds so ironic, but I’m actually morenervous* about traveling to Europe than I ever was the first time I came to Japan. I don’t know … I guess the thing is, here I speak the language, plus I know how to get around, the transportation system, how to buy things, where to go for help, etc. But in France… I don’t speak the language – it sounds so silly, but I’ve never even seen a Euro in my life, let alone know how much stuff should cost, how to get around, whatever. Plus I’ve never been in a country where I couldn’t speak the language and understand what was being said around me (as much as I sometimes wish I didn’t here in Japan).

Of course I’ll have friends to help me, but still… I’ve heard horror stories about the French: dog poop on the streets, American (panda!?!) hating city folk, roofs collapsing in airports, incessant strikes… eeps! Oh and the euro/yen exchange rate is currently at 1 euro/157 yen. The English pound, on the other hand, is trading at 1 pound/230yen Jeesh! (usually $1USD/118JPY) But anyway, all that not withstanding, I’m really looking forward to it, not only to see my friends, but also to take pictures with my new pretty baby:

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Canon EOS 400D / Digital Kiss X…

which has just found its way into my (non-existent) stocking this Christmas. Giving presents to myself. *sniff* How sad ;) But I do hope to kick up the image quality here on the blog by a few notches soon!

Anyone been to France before? Any advice?

Myspace

I have briefly touched on my dislike for the horror that is myspace in the past, but goddamn that lovely KC, she finally convinced me to get one.

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Michaelpanda.com //ver. Myspace

So there. Now I have a myspace. I did it – besides just to get KC off my back – because of the design challenge. Myspace is a disaster of a webpage – coded using horribly outdated methods from 1995 (table based layouts – I counted eight nested tables…! – what the hell? people still make those?!) it is a designer’s worst nightmare. But inspired by this blog entry, I began to wonder to myself – would it be possible to make a Myspace page that didn’t suck? And not only that, would it be possible to make a Myspace page that actually looked good…?! Given that most Myspace pages look they were designed by monkeys going through heroin withdrawl, it was a challenge to be sure., but one I chose to tackle. The results – Michaelpanda.com //ver Myspace – while not perfect, were good enough to leave me semi-satisfied. What do you think?

Matcha Monkah

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Matchamonkey under development…

A project I’ve been putting off for ages (it was supposed to have been done this past July), MatchaMonkah is a custom site I’m doing for a friend. It still needs a lot of work, even just to finish the basic design elements, let alone code the backend and templates, etc. so recently I’ve brought it back to the top of the “to-do” list because I’m determined to get it done in the next couple of months.

Intended as a personal homepage/blog, it will be fairly standard, though early on a few unusual choices by my friend – such as the decision to utilize a side tab navigation – not to mention a couple of custom widgets and a few javascript/css tricks I’m planning on implementing – will help it stand out just a little from your standard run-of-the-mill blogs.

More interestingly however, I noticed that this site incorporates elements of what I’ve realized is something of the “michaelpanda look” – most notably the usage of gradient-brushed vaguely-metallic looking primary page sections with “hash patterns” at the tops and bottoms, rounded corners on almost all page elements (“abhor the square”?), basic gradient background, fixed width layout that nonetheless resizes nicely without breaking if a user increases/decreases font size, css tab roll over navigation menus, an obsessive need to put things in containing section (i.e. nothing “floating” outside of the main visual fields of the page), everything done in old-skool xhtml/css/sparingly used javascript (i.e. no flash or other crap) the same basic “blog/moblog/gallery/other” website division plan, etc.

Similar elements can be seen in this site (obviously) as well as my Myspace page (though there I was obviously more limited by the shittiness of the pre-existing code and the limits on what we can change). Even another site I designed for my previous employer (now in sore need of an update) shows some similarities, despite being a rather large departure from the usual (for me).

I’m not sure how I feel about this – while it’s nice to see that there are certain design cues I obviously find pleasing and am naturally inclined to use, at the same time I worry about the “overbuilt-ness” of sites I create (I have this obsessive desire to put everything in its own container), not to mention that the whole vaguely metallic – to say nothing of the hash patterned gradient caps/footers – will undoubtedly look dated soon, if they don’t already (plus I could really stand to refine my Photoshop technique). Oh well. I guess whatever site I make next, I’ll try to make a conscious decision to move in an alternative direction just to keep things fresh and myself from stagnating.

You can find the under-development version here.

Michaelpanda.com redesign

I want to upgrade and redesign a few things on the panda blog. The number one thing I want to do is a “miniblog” of sorts over to the right, above where the “profile” box currently is. I’m aware that this risks splitting the attention between too many different places (already there’s the recent entries, then the featured entry, then the moblog, then the archives, etc.) but the truth is, I just don’t have enough time to write full length entries more than once or twice a week at best. However, I don’t want the blog to “go stale” so a miniblog over to the right might give me the ability to write daily, 1-4 paragraph entries that can keep things fresh without imposing the time burden that creating a full sized entry currently does.

Actually, that was the intention I originally had when I created the “recent news” and the “featured entry” divisions currently in use on the blog, but in reality I rarely use them the way I had intended, because I always like to have a nice picture or two “above the fold” (meaning the area you can see in your browser window when you first load the page), but only certain entries have them. So that means that I shy away from writing text only entries, or entries for which I don’t have any pretty pictures, and instead end up waiting weeks at a time for when I have a chance to take a picture of something colorful.

We’ll see how it goes – I need to think it through to figure out how to have it constantly updated and let the readers know when it contains a new entry (which will hopefully be daily) and without it taking over the whole sidebar. I’m thinking a little javascript/css manipulation to hide/reveal the miniblog at will. We’ll see.

Other things I’d like to do:

  1. reduce overall site “size” – it’s getting really big to load, especially for dialup
  2. go back and replace some of the “Lorem ipsum” filler text with actual content
  3. reupload images from previous entries that got lost when I transferred over the old blog
  4. add new galleries (shouldn’t be a problem once I get my new camera)
  5. redo the “writing” section and upload some new work
  6. maybe add a couple of new “ooh” tricks, including some AJAX trickery I’ve been kicking around

If anyone has any suggestions – things you like/dislike about the site, please don’t hesitate to let me know!

Okay, that’s it. I don’t really like doing these “round up” posts but I figured it was best to get all this stuff cleared out of the way so I can get to posting something more interesting. But first, I’m off to go binge on a full, recently downloaded season of Homicide: Life on the Streets, which, along with The Shield and Law & Order, are pretty much the best shows ever to have graced television in the last 10 years.

now listening to: Beirut – Postcards from Italy

And I… would love to see that day
That day is mine…

When she… will marry me
Outside… with the willow trees
And playing… songs in May
What made me so…
And I… would love to see that day…

The day was mine…

5 Reactions

  1. Ben

    Banana Republic eh? Well my fav. brand is Levi’s. Hehe. And yea. Although I really-really hate myspace, I must admit that your myspace design is actually quite nice. The good thing I find in it is cleanness of the design. (Unlike other myspace crap). And at last, I will be looking forward for the changes you’ll be making on michaelpanda.com!

  2. moritheil

    Miniblog design, eh? Fascinating. I know that several webcomics use it (most notoriously, perhaps, Questionable Content) but it has never occurred to me to use it with a blog. I eagerly await the results!

  3. coolnahalf

    well there you go. had i read this entry first i wouldn’t have asked what kinf of camera you use. there i go being chronologically ordered again.

  4. MatchaMonkey

    A miniblog, eh? I’m afriad your blog would take on an almost CNN feel, but I guess it depends on how it’s layed out.
    I heard they had crepres without hot dogs in France. Now that is something to be nervous about…

  5. ashan

    eeeek. myspace. *rinses mouth with chlorine* I must say, though, you must have done all that is possible to make it — not just nice — even better looking than many, many non-my….. blogs. Kudos! I wish I had m4d sk1llz like that.
    Thanks for the entertaining story about that enkai! 22′s really not a bad guess though, considering how most people graduate at 21 (min). Hahaha, guess you can’t win them all. ^^