Red haze and dust storms in Sydney

Driving through red haze and heavy dusts

Driving through red haze and heavy dusts

By this time, the news about the red haze which blanketed Sydney and surrounds yesterday would have reached everyone.

Quite true, yesterday’s phenomenon (yes, it is phenomenon) was unlike anything seen before. Walking out of our house yesterday morning to find out what was happening was a very eerie experience. Outside, the morning was painted red. The smell of dust was all over the place.

In my 30 years of stay in Australia, I have witnessed hailstorm with hails bigger the size of golf balls and destroying properties, but yesterday’s red haze was something very different and unusual.

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Changing themes is part of the exercise

romyc-wordpress-gridFor those who were following me from day one, 10 days ago, you would have noticed a big change in this site.

Yes, I am using Sadish’s MistyLook, except for the header image which I customized using other themes images. Not that there was something wrong with Derek Punsalan’s Grid Focus theme. In fact, it is one of my favorites for other self-hosted sites. I switched to a new theme as part of the exercise. I wanted to have a feel of how it is to “re-skin a blog” at WordPress.com.

Well, it was not that difficult after all. It took me only about 10 minutes to move to a different theme and re-set the widgets to display the same information.

Next time our friends ask me how it is to blog at WordPress.com, this is one story I can tell them.

By the way, is this theme XHTML 1.0 validated? I did check it and it is.

Updated 13 October: Experimenting with INove by mg12.

A pleasant blogging experience at WordPress.com, so far

I mentioned in my earlier posts that, compared with self-hosted sites which I am very much familiar with, a blog at WordPress.com is restrictive. For one, I could not really do much about customizing a theme unless of course I buy credits to allow me to add custom CSS. Also, I could not install my favorite plugins which of course I understand – considering that plugins are not for everyone.

But even within a small playing area so to speak, I thought running a non self-hosted blog could also be a pleasant online experience. I am quite happy with the way my blog here at WordPress.com is shaping up.  Its structure, content and looks are metamorphosing to those of  my self-hosted blog, thanks to the wonders of widgets. Widgets are something I would like to share with you in my next posts.

In the meantime, you may wish to check out my personal site including some Twitter updates @romycc.  Again, if you have a subject you would like us to tackle before the widgets posts, let me know.

How to upgrade your WordPress theme

After selecting your WordPress theme and you are still not happy with some of its elements like theme’s font sizes, column sizes and other similar styles, you can customize the theme’s CSS through custom CSS.

Unlike with self-hosted blogs however, in WordPress.com blogs, you need to buy credits from WordPress.com via PayPal. (I have not tried buying credits for this purpose, but I imagine that with the purchased credits, you will be given an extra command in your dashboard control panel which would allow you to “edit” the stylesheet.) Based on the WPMU version I am using, to upgrade a WordPress theme, you need to pay something like $14.97 which is good for one year.

Did I hear you asking “What is a custom CSS?” If you did, then the Upgrade is not for you. The upgrade is for advanced users only. As the “Upgrades” page on my WordPress.com dashboard page states:

“This upgrade allows you to add custom CSS to customize any theme on this current blog. This is recommended mostly for advanced users who understand CSS.”

With that upgrade requirement, how then do you customize your site?

Yes, the operative word is “site” and not “theme” since customizing a theme would mean adding custom CSS which may be outside the current knowledge of a beginner or outside his/her budget.

But don’t fret. Even if you cannot add custom CSS to a theme under the current WordPress.com free blogs environment, still you can change the looks of your site and make it a little bit different from other sites using the same theme.

We will tackle that in our next posts.

How to start a blog at WordPress.com (A quick digression)

After sending my link to this site to friends, someone told me why I don’t have the customary intro post like “How to start a blog at WordPress.com”.

I realize that in a tutorial that should be the first post, but I intentionally omitted that subject since it is assumed that the readers of my posts are already WordPress.com account holders. All they want to see are practical tips on how to go around their WordPress.com’s “My Dashboard.”

I hope my response reflects my tagline: “Sharing techniques with friends who at times fumble on their way to their blogs at WordPress.com, but are afraid to ask!”

Anyway, thanks for visiting. And please don’t be restricted from commenting and asking. I also learn from your questions.

How to blog at WordPress.com

For the last few five years or so, we have been using WordPress as a blog platform or a CMS in most of our websites. Being an open-source, we can tap onto the creative and ingenuous works of WordPress community of bloggers, developers and designers to produce easy-to-manage websites.

As a result of our 24/7 encounters with WordPress, we have developed a knowledge base of information on how to select themes, install plugins and other customisation works which we are sharing with others with self-hosted blogs.

The expert-information needs of those with blogs hosted at WordPress.com however are different. Compared with self-hosted blogs, WordPress.com-hosted blogs are understandably restricted when it comes to design customization and plugins installation and usages.

It is in this light that we have created a blog at WordPress. Hopefully, we should be able to get a better understanding of how to run a blog at WordPress.com from which we can help our friends on how they can best maximize and optimize their blogging efforts at WordPress.

Our next entry: How to select a WordPress theme

Updated 22 October 2009: After this first entry, we have posted 15 other observations on how to blog at WordPress.com. Thanks to those who have sent their feedback using the comments box in this site or through our private email.

Updated 11 November 2009: Upon the request of some friends, we have re-published this and other articles in A Matter of Sharing | How to blog at WordPress.com