April 11, 2017

Hallmark 2017

For the first time in three? four? years I’m really excited about Hallmark’s yearly collection of keepsake ornaments. There are a lot of great ones, and not just of the traditional style ornaments I tend to like. If you’ve ever wanted a collection of just Disney, or Disney princesses, or star wars ornaments, this would be a good year to do it.

I’ll do my best to link to the item I’m talking about, but it doesn’t look like many product pages have been set up yet. If you’re interested, you’ll have to scroll through the dreambook to find the ornaments I’m talking about.

The ornament I’m most excited about it Father Christmas’ Reindeer. It’s similar to last year’s tabletop of the same name and a limited release. The dream book lists it for $20. Since it’s a limited release I will likely purchase it at full price.

This years’ Snowball and Tuxedo, Cookies for Santa is next on my list. I love the way they incorporated baking. Normally I wait for the after Christmas sale on this series, but I suspect it may not be around if I wait.

Next are the mini ornaments. I like Petite Penguins and A Creature was Stirring (which is a mouse reading a book). Guessing I will get those at full price as well.

Penguin Express, the unofficial Kris’ Penguin’s series ornament, is on my list, but likely as an after Christmas sale. It’s adorable, but I’m not very excited about trains in general. I’d like to have it on my tree, but I won’t be heart broken if it’s not. Welcoming Wreath, and Beary Festive (Mary’s Bears Series) are also in this category.

I’m underwhelmed with this years Season’s Treatings (Cherry pie) and Cookie Cutter Christmas. A good deal, or a plea from Domingo could entice me.

The only ornament I’m really disappointed with is Inside Story. I became aware of the three ornament series when I saw a black and white sketch of this year’s version. I thought I would love it. Since it’s a three ornament series I decided to go ahead and try and collect them all. I purchased the 2016 version at a slightly higher price than I would have normally done off ebay, since I was going to try and get the series. That yellow color of the 2017 ornament? Cannot stand it. That will teach me to purchase early. I feel like I wasted my money.

At least my overall love of Hallmark has been rekindled.

April 5, 2017

Potty Cheer Squad


Teddy bear potty

Alexis has always been Nicole’s mimic. When Nicole announced she didn’t like pants with buttons, Alexis went through a phase of insisting “no buttons!” while getting dressed, even though none of her clothes have buttons in the first place. So it was no surprise she showed an interest in using the potty after watching big sister Nicole do it. Shortly before turning two she would announce “Potty!” while running to the bathroom whenever she had to go. Alexis would then sit down on the little kids potty and use her diaper. We were sure potty training in earnest wasn’t far away. Before she ever gave us enough advance warning to remove her diaper in time, however, she lost interest.

Domingo and I like to use mini rewards to encourage emerging behaviors like peeing in the potty. Nicole’s always liked the fruity, gummy candies best so she got gummy bears. For our little chocolate lover, we decided to offer M&Ms when her interest in the potty returned.

At first Nicole was a bit miffed to learn Alexis would be rewarded for using the potty. Four year old logic is all about equality, not equity. She had forgotten all about the days of gummy bears, and wanted the same reward for the same deed. While I could understand where she was coming from, it seemed rather indulgent to give Nicole, whose been a potty pro for over 18 months, a reward for continued potty use. Our compromise was to give both girls the same reward when Alexis successfully peed in the potty. Rather than risk a jealous divide, we thought we’d try to unite them onto the same team. The result was a big sister cheer leader who was the first one to tell Alexis she could do it, and sing her praises when the deed was done. We needed to make sure Mom and Dad were aware and could dole out the rewards, after all!

March’s numbers are the strongest yet for my business! Income wise, Datayze earned $182.98, nearly double February’s total. My lowest per day user count was 1,505 this month, making it my first month with 1,500 users each day, in addition to my first month of 1,000 users each day! Overall, users are up 37% throughout the month.

Even though users are up, growth appears to finally be slowing down a bit. The numbers rose much slower each week in March than they did in February. If I account for the fact that March has 3 extra days compared to February, than users are only up 25%. I’m also starting to see what I believe is a summer pattern. Search result clicks on the weekends have been largely unchanged while weekday clicks are still raising, albeit more slowly than before. The hourly patterns of when users are active is also shifting. I’m anticipating only a 10-15% growth in April as a result.

Despite the desire to start focusing on content again, this was another mostly maintenance month. Some big changes: the tab menu will now resize on browser resize to remain a single, unbroken line, and the top submenus will reposition to fit in a mobile browser. I’ve also changed the blue colors on the site. I loved the old header color on my laptop, but it displayed as gray everywhere else. Since I’m building a business, and not a personal website, I decided to go with a color that would look great everywhere else, even if that meant I wouldn’t like it as much on my personal device.

As for new content, I did write another how to article: Understanding Scientific Studies (Miscarriage Edition). I wrote it after being incredibly annoyed at the number of misquoted studies, since they almost always misinterpret risk to be higher than it actually is which can cause undo stress and increase anxieties. My hope is that someone reading this article will be better equipped to spot this kind of exaggeration and ignore bad statistics on the web.

I’m trying something new for April. My to-do list is currently standing at 26 items, 11 have been marked as priority to be addressed in April. New content will be pushed as it becomes available, but fixes will be pushed all at once (and likely just once) at the end of the month. I’m hoping this will help keep me on tract to produce new content.

As two STEM parents, Domingo and I want to raise children strong in the sciences. To that end, we’re always looking at STEM toy recommendations online. Trouble is, I often disagree with what counts as a STEM toy. One list had My Pal, Violet as a “STEM” toy. It’s electronic, sure. But STEM? I just don’t see it.

Here’s this data scientists pick for STEM toys for young kids.

Different kinds of Building Toys

Building toys are the staple of any stem list. Everyone knows building blocks like legos are great for their budding engineer to learn spatial reasoning, and develop of love of design. Peg based connector toys (Lego, Duplo, Mega Blocks, etc) are great but why stop there? By varying the type of toy and how the pieces connect, you’re reinforcing the concepts by introducing new types of challenges, new ways to design and new ways of thinking to your little engineer.

There’s magnet based connectors like Magformers and SmartMax. Gear connectors like Gears! Gears! Gears! is another fun one. You can also go with disc connectors like Brain Flakes and Mighty Molecules. A big hit in our home right now is Think n’ Link.

Curious George the Astronaut

To me a good STEM toy is one that gets a child interested in a STEM topic, and not necessarily building a critical STEM skill. If you don’t encourage kids’ interests they can sometimes fade. One way to do that is to include a plushy toy they can role play with. When the girls showed interest in space we encouraged it with a Curious George the Astronaut plushie and an Astronaut custom. We build rocket ships for George out of Mega Blocks.

We noticed a similar impact with our Alexa. It sparked Nicole’s interest enough to get her thinking about robots. Even though it’s not a toy, we did get a STEM benefit from it.

Microscope/Binoculars

Anything that helps kids look at their world differently is going to help inspire them to think about their world in different ways. In this category I really like the Geosafari Miscroscope and Geosafari Kidnoculars. Both are designed well for little faces, and don’t require focusing which make them very easy to use. The binoculars in particular are a favorite because the rubber grip eye piece makes it super easy for even Alexis to use.

We take our Binoculars (or nock-lers as Alexis calls them) to the Zoo and in the back yard. Even though they only have a 2x magnification, they proved a huge hit at the zoo. We were having an issue where Alexis would lose interest and want to move on to the next Animal before Nicole was ready. By introducing the Binoculars everything is new and interesting. If Alexis got bored with the Animals, she’d use her binoculars to people watch, or examine the trees giving Nicole all the time she needed.

We’ve looked at all mannors of things though the Microscope, including our princess necklaces and bugs. My favorite thing to look at through the microscope, however, is cereal. You can see the holes in the rice krispies!

March 15, 2017

Let there be LEDs

We lost another ceiling fan. That’s the third one to die in under two years. I suspect it’s another issue with the ceiling fan controller. That’s the issue claimed the previous two fans. So we’ll be making our third call to an electrician in less than a year. le sigh. Could be worse I suppose.

There’s a part of me that wonders if the problems we’ve been having may be a wattage issue. We noticed our outside bulbs had a ridiculously short half life until we went with a lower wattage. Could lower wattages help the ceiling fans last longer? Either way, it seems like a good excuse to finally make that switch to LEDs that we’ve been considering.

Of course I first thought of our experience with Hue light strips. I recently learned that Hue is making a line of white bulbs that let you choose the warmth/cool color level of the light which is appealing. You can set the light color temperature to what’s appropriate for time of day or activity, like photography. On the other hand I spent a lot of money on those light strips that are still in the closet, yet to find a good place in our new home. Then there’s the bulb size issue. Hue is coming out with a candelabra/candle but it won’t be available until later this year. Given all the grief I’ve gone with other new to market products, I have lost my desire to be an early adopter to anything. I decided to pass on Hue and it’s customobility… for now.

Instead I went with a lower wattage yellow light LEDs that bathes the room in an inviting glow. It’s not perfect for photography, but as long as the lighting temperature is consistent, I simple white balance adjustment will be fine. I opted to go with replacement bulbs in the recesses fixtures, rather than new recesses fixtures to give me the flexibility to change my mind on the color temperature later.

I started with the first floor, candelabra ($2-9 per depending on the shape) for the living room and dinning room and recessed lighting bulbs ($4.28 per bulb) for the kitchen. Hue is more typically $30 a bulb, but can range from $25-50 depending on a number of factors. I paid a lot more than that when the technology was brand new.

As for shopping, there wasn’t much of a selection in brick and mortar stores for the candelabra base. I had one option with each globe shape and couldn’t choose the color warmth. Online offered a way better selection, but prices varied wildly. It can also be really hard to gage whether it’s the right size bulb. It helped that the only non-medium (the standard household bulb base) base I needed was that candelabra.

To keep the price down, I bought in bulk and didn’t worry too much whether I was getting a “low quality” LED. From my research, quality in the LED world corresponds to longevity of the bulb. Even cheap LED are supposed to have something like 10 times the life of traditional bulbs. Good quality LEDs might have twice that life span. Either way, it’ll be a long time before I need to replace any of them. Given that, I set some extremely low price watches on CamelCamelCamel for replacement bulbs. That way I can be thrifty, and prepared at the same time.

Cheaper LED bulbs that last longer and require less energy than traditional bulbs. It’s the hat trick of saving!

One last tip which may sound kind of nutty: I separated my bulbs based on color temperature. Warm light bulbs are on one shelf, cool light bulbs on another. That way I can easily replace a burnt out bulb for another like bulb. I cannot stand mixed warmth lighting.

“Mommy”

Still dreaming, I opened my eyes. I’m in bed. It’s night. No, not quite. The faint light from the window indicates morning isn’t far away. What did I wake up? Was I dreaming?

“Mommy!” The faint voice comes over the baby monitor again. Nope, wasn’t dreaming.

I check my phone. 15 minutes before ‘wake up’ time. I get up and trudge down the hall.

“What is it, Alexis?”

“Bunny asleep!” Alexis jesters to her sleep trainer clock. The bottom half of the clock, depicting a sleeping bunny, is illuminated, indicating it’s not time to wake up yet. “Alexis go back to sleep!” she states proudly with an implied ‘by myself!’ before laying back down in the crib herself.


I love the bunny clocks. They helped both Nicole and Alexis through a few rough sleep patches. In both cases it seemed to curb the number of night time wakings, and help reduce the extra early mornings. I still remember one time I happen to check the baby monitor just as Nicole’s head was popping up from the pillow. She looked at the bunny, verified it was still sleeping, and lay back down. All by herself. The bunny doesn’t stop them from calling out if they need something – diaper change, potty, water, whatever – but it does seem to reduce the number of random wake ups that seem to happen for seemingly no reason.

Occasionally the clock has back fired on us. Once Nicole came in our room distraught that the bunny had forgotten to wake up (she had just woken up extra early and was tired of waiting.) But, overall, it’s clear the bunny has had a positive effect on their sleep, and, by transitivity, on our sleep as well.

One positive unintended consequence of the bunny clock? Explaining daylight savings time. Last fall we told the girls the bunny would be waking up later. This spring, we told them the bunny would be waking up extra early. When you’re two and three years old, the concept of a changing a clock’s time is rather abstract. At four, Nicole has a better understanding of daylight savings. It’s easy to just blame the bunny, though.

March 7, 2017

Market Share

The growth that I’m been experiencing of late, while awesome, has me a little nervous. It clearly can’t continue indefinitely. At some point the growth has to slow. The question I’m asking myself lately is, can I predict when? I need to get idea of how big the potential market is, and how big my share in it is. That’s easiest to do with the pregnancy verticals.

For this analysis I’m sticking with US data, since 71% of my user base is located in the US according to Google Analytics.

The birth rate in the US has been holding steady at just under 4 million the past couple of years. We might reasonably estimate that about 2.5% of expectant mothers don’t have internet access (1% of the 18-29 demographic, 4% of the 30-49 demographic). That would give us about 3.9 million potential users who may be interested in my pregnancy tools in the US.

Diving into my usage logs, median access time into the Labor probability calculator is 20 days before the due date, with a standard deviation of 27 days. This indicates a period of about 1-2 months where pregnant women might be interested in when labor is likely to occur. Conservatively, let’s go with one month. Than in any given month we might expect a potentially interested audience in the US as 325,000. Last month I had just 5,000 from the US. That means I am capturing just 1.5% of the US market.

What I don’t know is what percentage of those women would potentially care about labor probabilities. Statistics, in general, don’t appeal to everyone. I know they’re often met with skepticism when shared in the online forums. Recently one anonymous user described my Labor Probability Calculator as a random number generator. This is probably my fault for not making the mathematics behind the tool more apparent. Still, I get the feeling that a large percentage of the estimated “potential” audience would never be interested in my labor probability calculator, regardless.

This miscarriage apps are more popular. Last month I had over 10,000 users from the US spread out over the miscarriage apps. There are a lot of unknowns when estimating the potential market here, as not everyone fears a miscarriage, and not everyone knows their pregnant early on, but I might estimate I have 3% of the maximum growth potential in the US. Again, before we factor out those who just aren’t into statistics.

Of course this is ignoring other countries, as well as other none pregnant users, expectant fathers for example.

So where would this put my potential growth overall? It’s still hard to say, since I need a way of predicting mathematical interest. I doubt there are enough expectant parents to carry the 30% growth trend into the fall. Wouldn’t it be cool if there were, though?

February saw my highest per day rate of $3.44. It was also a shorter month, so the total of $94.95 was only my second best monthly total. Not exactly what I was hoping for, but I’ll take it.

Users were up an insane 49%, and the trend line shows no sign of stopping. With the exception of the Saturday before the Superbowl I had over 1,000 users daily every day, including weekends. By the end of the month most week days were seeing nearly 2,000 users a day.

The initial goal for February was additional content, but the site improvements appear to have greater return per effort spent. I did publish two new articles in How To and have two more coming. I also really need to create a site spell checker, which has been on my todo list, since creating the initial spell checker back in November.

The big change to Datayze was an update to the miscarriage probability model. In my opinion, how I handled the update shows how far I’ve come.

Back in 2015 I updated the, at the time, most popular app, the Readability Analyzer. I had been using a simplistic heuristic for counting syllables that tended to underestimate the number of syllables in a word. As a result, the Readability Analyzer was predicting slightly better reading ease scores than it should have. When I replaced the simplistic syllable counter for a more reasonable one the results were more accurate, but less desirable. My user base was upset. I got a number of angry emails about it, and more than one person vowed not to use it again since it wasn’t “stable”, despite this being the only change in nearly two decades. The user base fell 36%. At the time it was my most profitable app, so seeing those users flee was hard.

Flash forward to a few weeks ago. I became aware of several large scale studies on miscarriage that tended to have higher per-week miscarriage incident rates than the current studies I was using in my model. They had a much larger participant pool. Excluding them from the model felt dishonest and would do everyone using my miscarriage apps a disservice. Adding them would once again create more accurate, but less desirable results. I was terrified that the change would kill my growth.

I spent a week fine tuning my model. I knew there were many women who check the app daily, and would be shocked and alarmed that the probability of miscarriage was increasing. I wanted to be sure of my model before making the change. Then, as midnight Friday approached I made the push. I put a note explaining why the model had changed and stressed that I would be available for questions. Friday night I could not sleep. I checked my phone constantly for emails. The first came at 4:33 am. A few hours later news had spread to the forums.

Normally I make it a policy never to interact when people share my apps in the forums unless they invite me to do so. (I don’t want to intrude, and I think it’s unprofessional to go around creating accounts on other sites just to respond to comments). This time, however, my apps that were intended to reduce stress were actually creating it. I felt compelled to reiterated why the change was made, and personally apologized to everyone who was negatively affected. The personal apology seemed to help, and so far there hasn’t been a mass exodus of any kind. It’s even possible that my stressing my commitment to model accuracy I may have helped my overall reputation.

My goal for March is to finally get that Site Spell checker app up so I can use it. I want to improve the synonym list for the Word Analyzer, and see what it would take to get a better page speed score. It’s also time I start thinking more and more about my social media presence, and what it should look like.

February 28, 2017

“Moo” and Other Things

Six-ish months ago we made the decision it was time to start weaning Alexis off of her binky. I fallowed our dental insurance advice to poke holes in her existing binkies which would break the suction and reduce the sucking satisfaction Alexis received from them, allowing her to break her binky habit more gradually.

The first time Alexis put the modified binky into her mouth it slid right out. It started slipping out of her mouth at night time as well. I’d sneak into her room to find Alexis holding her binky in her hand rather than keeping it in her mouth. Things were going according to plan. Until…

Alexis learned to bite down and chew on her binkies to keep them in her mouth. She ended up chewing through a few binkis. We ended up replacing them twice, before it became clear that we needed to take the next step. Enter the Binky Fairy.

For the uninitiated, the Binky fairy works by having the child gather up all his/her binkies. At some point when the child isn’t looking the binky fairy turns the binkies into toys.

The Binky fairy helped Nicole kick her binky habit, though there were a few rough nights. Nicole was more attached to the binky than Alexis when it was time to give it up, and there were a couple nights where she’d wake up in the middle of the night having forgotten about trading it for toys.

I had learned from my mistakes. We sang the “bye, bye, binky” song (or at least the refrain) while she gathered up the her binkies and put them on the ottoman for the binky fairy. The fairy replaced them with a new bath time toy, and new night time snuggle buddy, and owl she named “Moo”. That way when it night time approached we could easily keep reinforcing the idea that she traded her binkies for fun new toys.

Despite all that she didn’t 100% grasp what was happening. She asked for her binky during bed time story and cried “Alexis needs it!” when I reminded her that they were all gone. Fortunately the tears were short lived. I reminded her about Moo and she was content to hold him during story time instead. I was surprised that she did not ask for a binky when she awoke in the middle of the night!

The next day Alexis asked for her binky again, and again I reminded her about Moo. There were no tears, but she held Moo to her face, frowned, said “don’t like Moo” and tried to hand him back to me.

“Aww, Moo likes you!” I said, wrapping Moo’s wings around her in a big hug. That did it. She grabbed tightly and lied down with a huge grin on her f ace. So far she’s been asking about the Binky, but other than that first few minutes of that first night there have been no tears, only questions.

February 23, 2017

Soon to be Kindergartner


One of Nicole’s School Picture Day Photos.

A few years ago when Domingo and I went to daycare together to pick up Nicole we stumbled on to a preschool graduation. The neighboring school was having a graduation ceremony for their five-year-olds. The soon to be kindergartens were wearing caps and gowns, and marching in procession for their parents. I told Domingo how silly I thought that was, since the only requirement to graduate preschool is age. Domingo said I’d feel differently when it was my kid.

Okay, so they’re darn cute in the caps and gowns.

I registered Nicole for the big K. In just a few months I will have a kindergartner. Kindergartner. It’s still feels so unreal no matter how many times I say it. Kindergartner.

I’m a bit sad that the girls will be in different places next year. It was inevitable, I know, but having them at the same school program has been really special, especially in the last few months. Now that Alexis is in the twos room, she gets to spend drop off and pick up time with Nicole’s class. That includes some outside recess time, as well as inside art time. The two of them really seem to enjoy having each other around. I love how much Alexis idolizes her big sister, and how Nicole looks after her little sister. Alexis is picking up so much from Nicole!

Nicole is ready. Her teachers have been saying since last summer. She’s also excited.

So we’re three quarters of a year from officially starting school. In the mean time we’re continuing to get Nicole ready by continuing “homework“, and talking about all the cool things she’ll get to do in her brand new big girl school. So far she’s most looking forward to riding the bus, and building her own rocket ship to take her to Disneyland. Apparently that’s what you do in Kindergarten these days.

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