May 9, 2018

Bye Bye Productivity

The lack of sleep is starting to get to me. Most nights I am getting broken sleep, maybe two rounds of two to three hours. As a result I feel myself being more sluggish as a slog through my todo list. I need to retool my approach, especially now since Dana is awake more during the day. I have fewer product hours on my phone while rocking her, fewer productive hours during the day when she’s napping, and I try and reserve those night time hours for what passes as sleep in this house.

I have a bit of a packing problem when it comes to tasks. In the evening I can devote as much time as needed to each task, but during the day I may only have five or ten minutes free. In order to more easily find tasks that fit the time available I created a label for five, fifteen, and thirty minute tasks with a catchall “unknown” when it’s hard to estimate. I’m still trying to keep tasks short, but some just don’t fit the short mold. Now I have a “Quick and easy” filter for short tasks with either an approaching due date or no due date so I can knock out more. I can also find tasks that fit the pockets of free time I have.

As an aside, I now know I have approximately 28.6 hours worth of non reoccuring tasks on my plate. No wonder I feel so perpetually behind.

I know keeping these approachable is key to keeping up with the task list. That’s why I focus so much on short, micro tasks. The tasks list itself needs to be approachable too. I found if a project had 30 or more tasks, my eyes start to glaze over as I scan through the list, and some tasks fall off my radar. I now have a “Business” project, with a “Datayze” sub-project and a sub-sub-project for new features, as well as a sub-sub-project for bugs.

To help I made a filter for outstanding tasks, tasks that have been on my list for forever, and critical tasks. Mess may stress me out, but cleaning is not a critical task. I can skip a round of dusting, or three. Clean bathrooms will not help my business grow, nor my kids grow.

I suppose if I continue reduce my task list by choosing to do less. My blog has been really hurting lately. I used to write posts while rocking Dana, but now rocking time has become brain storming time. Many posts sit half edited on my phone. I suppose of all the things I’m doing these days, journaling is the least important. I don’t have to go back and finish them. But I enjoy going back over old entries and reliving old memories (even the bad ones). It’s kind of like how I feel about Facebook. For now I’m going to try and keep up with it, even if that means back posting.

I know I can’t keep up this fevered pace forever. Nor would I want to. Things should start to get easier once we have more sleep in this house.

Now that The family is complete, and I’ve added Dana to my walls, many of these framed photos are photos I hope to never take down. The pictures are perfect. Now I want the frames to be perfect to match. My chief complaint? Reflections in the glass. Curse you California sun.

Glaze is the industry term for the clear substance (glass or acrylic) that sits between the artwork and the outside world.

The first thing I looked into was museum glass. I had done some customs framing at Michael’s and the Museam Glass did a good job at cutting down the reflections. Chief issues was that it’s heavy (not great in Earthquake country), an super expensive. The bulk + weight makes shipping impractical. I had a hard time finding places that would sell it to non custom framers or in small quantities. The places that would ship to me charged about $50 for a single 8×10.

I next came across water white anti reflective glass. Water white refers to the fact that it shouldn’t add any tint to the photos. Since I was framing artwork (the butter footprints) on white paper, that was very important to me. I found it did an excellent job of cutting down ambient light to the point were I could easily see the texture of the photos from a few feet away. Direct sunlight was a different story. It wasn’t as good with direct light as the Museum glass, and not as good as I would have liked, but better than the cheap glass that comes in the cheap frames. I went from not being able to see any of the photograph, to not seeing most of the photograph. An 8×10 ran about $20.

The third option was to skip glazing all together. It’s not a perfect solution as the photo paper itself is slightly reflective, but if you’re wall is going to be bathed in sunlight half the day, it may be the only thing that works. One drawback is your artwork isn’t protected from the elements. That’s less of an issue when your artwork can be replaced by your home printer, but something to keep in mind if it can’t. To go this third route you need to potentially consider how hard it is to replace a cheap picture frame.

I should detour and mention that most of my frames are cheap, costing anywhere from a couple bucks for the small sizes to $20 to the matted large frames. I do have a couple expensive frames (mostly gifts). The expensive frames have sawtooth hangers (a long piece of metal with serrated edge) for hanging on the wall and point tabs for keeping the frame and backing together. I worry those point tabs will eventually snap off with repeated picture changes, so I’d rather not change out those prints any more than I have to.

I went the no glazing route for my 3 favorite photos. They’re hung low, easy to reach, and the sawtooth hooks make them easy to take down and put back up. Should the originals fade over time without protection they will be easy enough to replace. For the kids footprints I opted for protective glazing. Anything that was too large to be printed at home, or the metal tab points made it difficult to replace also got glazing.

The final consideration was sizing. Most frames the glazing matches the advertised picture size. For frames that come with mats the mats typically corresponded with a common photo size. For example The matted 5×7 picture frame had a mat that was 11×14, and the glazing matched that size. I did have two frames (4×6 and 5×7) where that was not the case. The first was a quarter inch smaller in each direction, the second was a hair thinner but I managed to get the glass in with a bit of force. I only needed one custom frame size for that 4×6.

Now I just need to figure out what to do with the old glass.

In April revenue dropped to $618.01, and there was a 1.8% growth in users. Less than expected, but not alarmingly so given that we’ll be heading into the summer months soon which tend to be a time of slow down. My Alexa rank continues to climb which could be an indication that my piece of the global audience pie is still growing.

Bit by bit I’ve been able to carve out more time for Sarahsoft.

Last month I lamented not having smoke tests. I ran into a problem a few years ago when my host updated the PHP server. A function I was depending on was deprecated. As a result, one of my apps began to fail silently. Two years ago I lost 2 days after an updating a dependency changed the way the apps displayed. I’ve learned to test often, even when not updating my code. Smoke tests can automated some of that, freeing up more time for development.

At present the primary thing I’m looking for in my smoke tests is development code that slipped into production, such as code that references individual source files rather than stable build files, or specify a build file other than the current one. Although it shouldn’t effect functionality, I’m looking for code with TODOs and debugging output. Such conditions could be a sign that I wasn’t ready to launch the new code, and did by mistake.

I haven’t gotten any more warnings about memory issues which takes some of the time pressure off. My primary goal is still moving Datayze to it’s own user account, and it’s own VM. I probably should have done this after pushing all the pending changes from the winter so that I was only working on one thing at a time. I’ve needlessly complicated things a bit for myself. Ah well, live and learn.

April 20, 2018

Not Hallmarking

The dream book is out, and there’s not a single ornament I’m pinning over. Not. A. One.

Snowball and Tuxedo? Not Christmas-y enough. Seasons treating? Meh, this chocolate lover isn’t impressed. Not a creature was storing? Don’t quiet get the match thing. The clock is ok, I guess. Mary’s bears? Kris’ Penguins? Cooks cutter Christmas? Not into them. I’m not even a fan of this year’s Baby’s first Christmas. I will purchase that one mostly out of obligation, much like I did with Alexis’.

There are a couple ornaments that I’ll likely look for after the holiday. I like cozy critters blue jay since we have so many here. That’s so sweet snowman and sweet sled are the types of ornaments I typically go for on sale. I like them, but I’d be just as happy for next years version. No sense paying full price if I don’t have to.

At least this year I’ll be able to go to an after Christmas sale. I never made it last year.

Since I won’t be hallmarking, I am hoping to find the time to make more of my own ornaments again. I’ve been meaning to update our new home ornament. The initial design had a flaw which affected the print job, but that aside I still wasn’t too happy with it. The snow on top didn’t really come across as snow and the key had to be very thick to print in in sandstone. I am thinking of trying again in a clear acrylic hoping it will look like ice.

April 17, 2018

Embrassing Technology

You can’t build a cancer simulator in high school if you’ve not comfortable with a computer keyboard. That’s always been Domingo and my philosophy when it comes to technology. Technology is a tool that you need practice with in order to master. But up until recently, I haven’t really been putting my money where my mouth is.

A few weeks ago Nicole asked us if we had a 3D printer. They had a guest visit to their kindergarten class who gave a presentation on animal conservation. He recounted the story of helping a bald eagle with a broken beak by 3D printing a new one. If it was possible to print beaks, she thought, maybe we could also print toys.

My little maker in the making.

We spent the weekend designing “Nicole Coins” since she’s been really into counting lately. She wanted to print a 100, but at $5 a pop we decided to go with 4.

She’s not the only one making connections when it comes to technology. Alexis figured out before I did that my new camera’s LCD screen is a touch screen. In fact, I had no idea until I saw her scrolling through the photos with a finger swipe. I use my camera nearly daily. She has never once taken a picture, and only looked at the images a handful of times. Yet she had thought to try something I hadn’t, and as a result figured out functionality I never knew existed.

I love that they’re becoming familiar with how these things work enough to make connections and inferences.

Despite our philosophy the kids’ exposure our kids have had to technology, and not just screen time, has been somewhat unintentionally limited. We occasionally use my phone to experiment with face masks and augmented reality, and had a weekly skype date with my parents. We have echos scattered about the house to play music and work as an intercom system. That’s been the extent of it.

This weekend Domingo and I got the kids each their own tablets. We preloaded them with logic games and site word lists, as well as a few episodes of their favorite TV shows. Part of me thinks we must be crazy, but I’ve heard through the grapevine that some local elementary schools have the kids do homework on ipads. I want the girls to be familiar with the tool when the time comes!

April 9, 2018

Dana at Three Months

Dear Dana,

And just like that we’re at month three. All months seem to fly by, but this past one was turbo speed.

This month we’ve been introducing the bottle. At first you were completely uninterested. We tried to get you to play with it, touching the nipple to your lips so you could smell the milk. A drop would dribble out to give you a taste. Instead of being intrigued, however, you’d suddenly realize you were hungry, and insist on me, even when I was hiding in another part of the house. After a few weeks you are just starting to get interested in the bottle. Last week you suckled with it for the first time ever, and drank an once for Grandma. I have full confidence now that you know how to drink from the bottle, since you did take some, it’s just a matter of preference. I can’t say that I’m terribly dissapointed you prefer me.

You’re still pretty firmly preferring your fist to binky, but we’re working on it too. I have less confidence that we’ll be able to change you’re mind on that one. I have only gotten you to keep it in your mouth a handful of times over the past month. Your fist, on the other hand, seems to live in your mouth. You will sometimes get just a finger in your mouth, and I’m sure it won’t be too long before you discover your thumb.

In terms of development, you are grabbing with two hands now. We have to watch you like a hawk as you, little miss, have two very eager sisters who want to share their toys. We have to constantly tell them that you are too little for their toys. The other day I found a mini my little pony figurine in your bouncy seat. Given you are too little to fetch it yourself, and mommy and daddy certainly didn’t give it to you, I’m going to have to credit your over generous sisters with that one.

Speaking of big sisters, you adore yours! You, Grandma and Alexis had quiet the long chat over lunch recently. Alexis kept asking us to translate your baby speak and you loved the attention. Nicole gets the biggest smiles from you (I’m going to have to recruit her as my photographer’s assistant). One of your favorite times of day is in the playroom just before bed. You love sitting in your chair, cooing and watching your sisters as they play. The time is second only to bath time in your eyes.

After a week long visit from Grandma and Grandpa, and with both big sisters home for spring vacation, we’re a little off schedule. You were having a decent nap in the crib almost everyday, but lately you struggle to stay asleep more than a sleep cycle. Our intention was to move you out of the rock n play and out of our room this month, but the timing doesn’t seem right. Besides, I am not ready for my itsiest bitest to grow up so quickly.

Love Always,
Mommy & Daddy

April 6, 2018

No Longer Like Squatters

In December Domingo and I finally figured out what to do with the big empty space by the entrance way. It’s intended to be a living room, but we already have the oversized family room with more than enough space to entertain friends and family. What we needed was a work space for the kids, a place to do homework and art projects. We moved their table from the upstairs playroom downstairs, and purchased a book bag shelf with cubby to house their book bags and all their supplies. All that was missing was a seat for adults to sit and watch the kids or read to them. I ordered a love seat online to complete the space.

I was amazed at the quality of the love seat. It was only slightly more than the very uncomfortable Ikea couch I had been sleeping on post giving birth, but with an incredibly soft fabric and a supportive cushion you could just sink into. I couldn’t help but think about replacing that canvas colored ikea couch, as well as the medium reddish brown rocking chair with the upholstery coming up besides it.

I felt kind of ridiculous replacing perfectly functional furniture (not exactly frugal!) but I’m so glad I did. The ikea couch and old rocking chair clashed. Neither was particularly comfortable, the rocking chair hadn’t aged well and the couch never was. It just seemed to disconnected. So hodgepodge. Neither felt particularly like they belonged. Not only does the new stuff match, but it’s much larger and fits the room better. Every time I walk down the stairs, turn the corner and catch a glimpse of the new furniture I feel content. Everything fits together. It’s as though we planned it. That added sitting space from the longer couch will be useful as our kids grow!

Between the new furniture, the filling of the last empty space and the new wall decorations and it’s finally starting to feel like a family lives here, and not like we squat here. After almost 3 years, it’s probably time to finish putting together the house.

I have been bit by the coding bug. After last month I had the itch to get cracking again and I desperately wanted to cross stuff off my todo list. Time is still my biggest challenge, but I’m finding a little more time to carve out each week.

First, let’s dive into the numbers. March saw a 16.7% increase in users and topped out at $727.75. My goal of $1000/month feels so close! Time Until Countdown continues to be not only my most popular app, but one of my fastest growing apps as well with a 25% increase in users.

Since I have a number of new features to roll out at once I decided to go ahead and set up a new user account on my server to host Datayze, walling it off from my personal stuff.

My current focus is on upgrading the admin panel so it functions more like a panel and less like a collection of scripts. There’s a work flow to the admin panel now. There’s a section for shepherding new apps from implementation to launch. I already had an analysis framework for better understanding site usage, but it was old and slow, written for a time when I had far fewer users. That’s been spruced up a bit. The biggest thing I’d like to add next is smoke tests, code that’s designed to look for issues before they arise. I check my apps periodically for speed and mobile usability issues, but it would be nice to have to be more proactive.

One potential issue I may have this month: I’m getting warnings about memory usage again. I strongly suspect a memory leak, but tech support thinks it’s this blog (sktyler.com)’s instance of WordPress. By separating Datayze to its own user account I can seamlessly push it to a separate VM. Then, assuming tech support is right, this personal blog with a handful of readers won’t negatively impact my business. Even if tech support is wrong, it’s still worth doing, especially since my goal is to build multiple Datayze-scaled sites.

My goal is to launch Datayze on the new account with all the changes in a few months. I can’t decide yet if that’s a stretch goal or not.

March 27, 2018

Eight Anniversary

I cannot put into words how wonderful Domingo is, and how lucky I feel to have him in my life. Every year I think this is as good as it gets, and I cannot possibly love him any more. Yet here we are, each year more in love than the year before.

One of this year’s sweetest moments was from January. While waiting for the induction to start at the hospital, Domingo told me he brought something for me. Since I had been on the gestational diabetics diet, I wasn’t allowed any of the sweet treats I love. During that time I had had a particularly strong desire for chocolate donuts. Domingo had packed a small package of mini chocolate donuts in his hospital go bag. That way, the moment I was given the ok to eat, I could satisfy my sweet tooth. It was an especially sweet moment because he insisted I eat them all, even though the hospital cafeteria closed at 3pm and he was left with only vending machine as his only option.

It should be no surprise that the sweetest guy in the world is father to the sweetest girls in the world. Alexis is better at remembering to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ than I am! Her favorite saying these days is “you’re the best!” and will thank you for the smallest things. Nicole is amazingly empathetic, and will often take the lesser toy or snack because she doesn’t want to see her sister be sad. A few weeks ago little sister was scolded for purposely annoying Nicole. Nicole told me I was too harsh and gave Alexis a hug, telling her she only wanted her to be happy.

I still can’t believe I got exactly the family I was hoping for. My business continues to grow, in no small part due to the support of my family encouraging me along the way. The wildlife around our house is a photographers dream. A few days ago I saw, and photographed, my first coyote.

What more could a person ask for?

They say disliking your older work you were once so proud of is a sign you are improving as a photographer. Seeing the flaws you didn’t see before shows you understand your craft better. I have the opposite problem. Often the photos I don’t like in the moment are the ones that grow on me over time. That’s because I tend to be too focused on the technical aspects when shooting. Was the face properly in focus? Exposure correct? Any traces of blur? When something is amiss I tend to be pretty hard on myself. I don’t want to share these less than perfect pictures. I’m embarrassed I messed up, no matter how small the err. Over time I stop seeing the technical issues and start focusing on the subject matter – mostly my kids.

I recently did a set of three head shots, one for each of the girls. Once again I forgot to adjust my camera settings and the aperture is so narrow there’s a slight camera shake on Nicole’s. It kills me. We tried several more times, and never once repeated the same great candid expression. I try to put the flawed photo out of my mind, but the thought of the almost perfect image haunts me. Maybe it’s not as bad as I remember? I torture myself by opening the image file and zooming in in the eyes, where the blur is most noticeable.


The blur. It hurts.

A photographer friend recently convinced me to just print the photo out anyway. What’s the harm? He argued. All you’re out is the photo paper and ink if you don’t like it. He argued that you rarely spend millimeters in front of a photo anyway, you’re unlikely to be close enough to see the flaws.

I printed it. The slight blur made me cringe.

I mounted it in a collage frame as a place holder, I told myself, just until I managed something better. The slight blur annoyed me.

I hung it on the wall. I could still see it.

But every time I walked past it, I saw the blur less and less. My friend was right, you don’t tend to stand close enough to a photo to see all the minor issues. Distance and glass help hide minor issues. What I now see was my beautiful child’s smile. That smile makes me smile. I agonized over the mistake before, but over time I simply forgot about it. It’s not the only flawed photo on my wall. I have a ballerina with a slightly out of focus hand, and an astronaut whose lose hairs have a slight motion blur.

It’s hard sometimes to let go of the technical and just enjoy the art. Sometimes you just need time.

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