Archive for March, 2016

March 27, 2016

Sixth Anniversary

My happy, crazy, amazing family

It’s hard to believe it’s been six years since the anniversary of our wedding vows. In those six years we’ve had three homes (three cities and three different daycares), two amazing girls, and one incredible do-it-yourself career adventure.

I am constantly amazed at the compassion and considerate my not-yet-four-year-old shows. She is so loving with her little sister, offering her hugs and toys when she cries. Her teachers tell me she is the first to start cleaning up, and the first to the table at activity time. A few months ago Ms. T, her favorite teacher, was cutting with scissors and somehow managed to cut herself. Concerned, Nicole fetched her a wet paper towel, all on her on.

Alexis is our vampire kisses and tackle hug champion. She is incredibly clever, just like big sister. Before she found words she was amazingly good at inventing gestures to indicate what she wanted, whether it be the way she tapped on the trey to indicate the type of food she wanted, or the way she’d throw her head down to indicate she wanted to be picked up upside down. She’s our happy little ball of energy

And Domingo. Boy, did I hit the jackpot with him. He’s amazingly supportive of my desire to start my own company, even though it’s taking longer to get it off the ground than I would like.

We’re loving our new home, and our new community. The change of pace from silicon valley (and the reduction in commute time) has done us a world of good.

March 26, 2016

Bunny Chips


We celebrated Easter today. I’m a big believer that it doesn’t matter when you celebrate a holiday, it matters with who you celebrate it. Today was the day family could come, so today was the day the bunny came.

This is our fourth Easter and we’ve got the bunny basket thing down. Each year he brings us anything we might need for the changing season: flipflops, water shoes, sunglasses. We get a new toy, and, of course, it wouldn’t be an Easter basket without a chocolate bunny. Incidentally this is the same philosophy we use for Christmas stocking. Some years it works out better than others. This year we’ve had a bit of a heat wave, and it’s rare for us to have a really cold winter.

Alexis sporting her new sunglasses & flip flops. We were too excited to wait for mommy to take off the tag.

What I wasn’t too sure of was how to handle the Easter egg hunt. Alexis is too small for jelly beans or temporary tattoos. Stickers didn’t seem to be a fabulous idea either. There isn’t really a good treat that works for both kids. Daycare came to the rescue with a fabulous idea: cereal. The girls eat mostly cheerios and kix, so a colorful sugared cereal is a special treat for them.

Fruity Pebbles, or as Nicki referrs to them “Bunny Chips”

Once Alexis realized there was something in their she sat down with her basket and insisted on opening each and every egg she had collected so she could eat their contents.

Nicole was not so easily distracted. With her sister out of the hunt, she quickly filled up her basket. We had enough eggs to fill both baskets, which meant Nicole’s basket was overflowing and there were still eggs to be collected. Nicole requested a second basket, but settled for a bag for the extra eggs. Once each egg was collected the girls enjoyed sitting in the new chairs eating their bunny chips.

As I was driving the kids home from daycare yesterday it suddenly dawned on me that a code change I had made a few weeks ago may have introduced a bug into some of my less popular apps. It wasn’t until I was drawing the kids their bath that I had a chance to whip out my phone and confirm the bug’s existence. Drat. At least I was pretty sure it was an easy bug to fix.

Once the kids were in bed I opened up my laptop to get started. This was looking like a minor bug in an set of apps with an embarrassing low number of visitors last week. I decided to chance editing it directly in production rather than setting up a test environment first. I made a single change, before getting called away. I was gone for a minute. Not more than 30 seconds. I returned back down stairs to discover the internet was out. I opened my phone to test the change I had made. Instead of a small bug that only affected an obscure case, my app was now completely unusable. Serves me right for working in production.

I checked in with our internet service provider. They already knew about the outage, and expected to have the internet restored by 2 am. It was 8pm. Not a good. Not good at all.

The internet wasn’t technically down, but experiencing about a 60-75% packet loss. Packets were bouncing around all over our provider’s network before getting out to the internet backbone. It looks like our service provider were experience a major hardware problem and were trying to reroute traffic around it, but the rest of the network couldn’t handle the extra load. What that meant for us was that we could occasional connect for a minute or two. It was usually just enough for me to connect through the web ftp, open a file and make a single change. If I was lucky, I could also test the change on my laptop instead of my phone before I lost the connection again.

By the way, my work environment? I’m working with a web based ftp and IDE. The web based ftp wasn’t anticipating connection interruptions. If the connection timed out while trying to commit a change, the web based ftp showed the change as committed. I discovered this after debugging the same bug and changing the same line the same way multiple times.

It was a night of not fun discoveries. Thankfully, the internet was stable enough at 11:30 for me to return my app to it’s mostly correct state. This morning I took a few extra minutes to squash that bug.

Next task: setting up a better working environment.

My willingness to spend money has increased the past couple of years. I hemmed and hawed about purchasing the the wine bottle wall art that decorated our dinning room walls with when Domingo and I first moved in together. Domingo had to convince me that it really wasn’t that expensive to buy both the white and red pieces. A few years later I lamented not having purchased a backup set. Sadly, they broke in our move not two years after that, thank you movers who put them in a box without wrapping them first.

The ‘I should get a back up set’ (or ‘should have gotten’ in this case) is the good I-wish-I-spent-more feeling. Lately I’ve had a few of the not so good I-wish-I-spent-more feeling. The reading chair we purchased for the office came cheap from Amazon. Sadly it both looks and feels as cheap as it was. I wish I had purchased a different chair, a nicer one. The deck furniture was similarly disappointing. It’s already has some rust after just one season of use. I can’t really bemoan the purchase of the Ikea couch. We got it at a basement bargain price for the apartment. We weren’t sure where we were likely to move, and I didn’t want to spend a penny more than I had to on something that might not work in the new place. It was the cheapest couch I could find, and meant to only be temporary.

Then there were the good purchases. The Mainstays table for the kitchen was a steal. The initial table I bought that arrived broken, only had two chairs and cost more. Our dinning room table was another great purchase, though the shipping and handling surcharge eat into the discount a bit. And, of course, I ended up liking our Christmas trees that were a bit of a gamble. I’m glad I didn’t spend one penny more on those items because it’s hard to imagine a different table or tree that I would have appreciated measurably more.

Reflecting on past purchases has me thinking about price points, and whether mine is at the right point. The lower the price point, the greater the chance of being disappointed with the product. (In general at least, price and value may be interlinked but they’re not interchangeable). The higher the price point the less likely to be dissapointed, but the greater the chance that another product may have been equally good for less. The greater the risk of over paying. There’s a trade off between paying as little as possible, and being happy with one’s purchases.

dissapointed missingout
Probability of being disappointed as a function of price point, and probability of missing out on a deal as a function of price point.

Putting the two charts together to get an idea of overall happiness.
Minimizing the probability of being disappointed means maximizing the probability of over spending and vise versa. The trick is finding the sweet spot where the both probabilities are in the acceptable range for your sensibilities.

I could lower my price point, but it means more back and forth. More returning items I’m really not happy with. More accepting items I’m marginally happy with. I initially assumed my batting average wasn’t that great. I’m starting to think my price point might be just about right after all. I certainly wouldn’t go lower. I don’t have as much patience as I once did, or time, to handle more returns and more calls to customer service. But I’m happy I’m not spending more too. A penny saved, and all.

This weekend we purchased a new set of patio chairs. I spent a bit more than I typically do. Here’s hoping I don’t regret it.


I don’t regret it!

March 19, 2016

Three Weeks

It’s hard to believe it’s been three weeks since I last picked up my camera. Four if you only count photos I took of the girls (which Momtographer does).

Hummingbird tests the limits of my camera.
50% cropped.

Everyone always says there are fewer photos the second time around. I was determined that would not be the case for us. Taking relatively few photos of Nicole during the couple of months of her life was something I deeply regret. I didn’t want to have the same regret twice so I made a concerted effort to take more photos of both the girls. And so I dutifully picked up my camera every couple of days.

Once Alexis approached the one year mark, the pressure to photograph that fleeting babydom started to dissipate. I had been taking so many photos that I began to feel a little burned out from photography. The holidays were starting, my favorite time of the year, so I pushed through the burn out. I was determined to keep up the pace through Christmas and a little beyond. (I always seem to have a few holiday photos that were taken post holiday.)

I took a few park photos in February, and then just kind of stopped.

Whenever I realize it’s been a few weeks since I’ve last taken photos I start to get a little anxious. Most of our family lives so far away, photos of the girls is how they watch them grow up. In a weird way I kind of feel like I’m missing out on something. If I don’t photograph it I worry I’ll forget it. The only cure for that anxious feeling is to pick up the camera again, even if it’s just for a couple of minutes over the weekend.

Photography is a skill, and when not practiced I start to lose it.

March 12, 2016

Reclaiming The Night

There was about an 18 to 24 month time period where we had really rotten sleep. I didn’t blog about it much because, well, who wants to be reminded about how little sleep they’re getting? Besides, it felt like some kind of cosmic payback from Nicole sleeping so well as an infant. I jinxed it. I must pay for it.

It started when we moved to Silicon Valley. One of the criteria’s in apartments we were looking for was location. We picked the complex in part to keep the amount of city street driving minimal, and therefore the commute time minimal. My exit was right across the street from our apartment complex. Domingo only had to drive a few blocks down the major through way to get to his highway. Those few blocks could easily add twenty minutes to his commute, so from a time saving perspective I can’t say the location was an entirely poor decision. What we didn’t anticipate was the amount of traffic noise we’d be hearing, punctuated by the not so occasional siren. What I did not know when we signed the lease was that the local hospital was just down that major through way in the opposite direction of Domingo’s exit. Any accident on either highway meant the ambulance would be barely down our street, usually followed by police and sometimes the fire department. And, of course, that took them right past Nicole’s window.

Nicole went from being a solid sleeper to waking nightly. We tried white noise machines, but to know avail. Sirens are meant to be heard.

In a small apartment, any one person waking up usually meant we’d all be waking up. By the baby was a few months old, she was already out sleeping the toddler. My infant was sleeping through the night far more consistently than my toddler. For . A . Year.

We had hoped the quite of suburbia would help Nicole return to her solid sleeping phase, but at that point she was too used to her night time wakings. There were more nights where she’d sleep through the night, but it was nothing like that glorious infant sleep of her first year of life. Back in November a friend recommended an OK to wake clock. We went with the Kid’Sleep Moon White/Blue Nightlight, her “bunny clock” as she calls it. There were a couple of rough nights, include the early morning insistence that the “bunny was broken” when the bunny didn’t wake up early enough for Nicole. We coupled the bunny with morning prizes (stickers, temporary tattoos, etc) for a night well done.

I’m not sure if it was the bunny clock, or the morning prizes, but things finally started turning around for us. After a week or so we started noticing a significant change in Nicole’s night time sleeping. She rarely woke in the middle of the night, and stayed in bed until the bunny “woke up”. I even caught her on the baby monitor in the middle of the night, sitting up to see if the bunny was awake before settling herself back down. We’ve been three months now without a single middle of the night waking from her.

We may still not be getting much sleep. The bunny gets up pretty early. But it’s consistent, uninterrupted sleep and that is such a life changer.

March 7, 2016

Practically Synonyms

When I awoke this morning I checked the baby monitor to find Alexis standing in her crib. She often awakes around six and waits thirty minutes or so for us to go fetch her before becoming inpatient. When I entered her room she extended her arms to be picked up and called out “Owie!” Odd, I thought. She wasn’t hurt. She hadn’t been crying, or even calling out before I went into her room. She was just standing in her crib, waiting. She probably said “Mommy” and I just misheard.

We were in a bit of a rush this morning. Well, every morning lately seems a bit rushed these days. Domingo was downstairs with the girls getting their shoes on while I was upstairs gathering more spare clothes for the girls’ cubbies at schools. When I came down stairs she saw me and again called out with her arms extended, “Owie! Owie!” This time Domingo noticed it too, and could attest both to the spoken word and the lack of injury.

Actually, we’re pretty sure this isn’t the first time she called me owie now that we think about, but with “owie” being phonetically close to “mommy” we kept doubting ourselves. As always with kids and first words there’s a lot of guessing what was actually said. It takes a few iterations before words become clear.

When you think about it “owie” is a pretty good substitute word for “mommy.” It’s nearly guaranteed to get Mommy’s attention, more so than “mommy” ironically, since it indicates a level of distress. We think she picked it up from Nicole. Three year olds are pretty excellent at detecting owies as well as inventing them. She probably noticed Nicole using it to get attention and is mimicking her favorite big sister.

So now we’re up to “ball”, “here”, “more”, “bucket”, “shoe”, “daddy”, “mommy”, “hi”, “bye” & “owie” in total words, with “mommy”, “daddy” and “owie” all being used to referencing me. (In her mind “daddy” seems to mean “Generic Parent” as she uses it to refer to both Domingo and I. No Idea where it came from.)

March 4, 2016

Wouldn’t it be Nice?

Despite the fact that I talk about shopping a lot in my blog, I don’t actually like spending money. That doesn’t stop me from daydreaming about products that I might wish to own if only we had unlimited funds. Here are the products I’m currently thinking about.

Purple We’re not in the market for a new mattress. Our mattress started showing it’s age (15 years) when we moved to silicon valley a couple years ago, but a memory foam topper helped extend it’s life. I think we’ve got another 1-3 years before we’d need to replace the mattress (or topper).

Last month I saw a commercial for the purple mattress, I love the concept but wondered how it compared to memory foam mattresses, our previous dream of what we’d own one day with unlimited funds. I started reading up on the company and was really impressed with everything about them and their product line. The reviews were pretty intensely positive, too, and seemingly from people who know way more about mattresses than I do.

From their marketing material is looks like they have all of the benefits of memory foam, with none of the drawbacks, and at a cheaper price point. It’s definitely the mattress I’ll be leaning towards, when I’m finally in the market for a new mattress.

Dishes We registered for the Concepts Eggplant dishware set for our wedding. That wasn’t the smartest decision. The flat dishes have a fairly large lip making them hard to fit in most of the dishwashers we’ve used. They didn’t fit in our townhome dishwasher, or our apartment dishwasher. They do fit in our current dishwasher, but barely and take up so much space we can’t fill the dishwasher up like we can when we use my cheap plates from college. You can guess which set we’re actually using.

I really like this set from Create and Barrel. The problem? Instead of $50 per 4 place settings, it’s $400. Even with unlimited funds I think I’m too cheap to pay that price.

I’m pretty sure if I looked I could fine something similar if I look around. It’s not a particularly unusual pattern.

A New Camera My camera has had 147,200 shutter actions, up 40,000 since August, on a three year old camera that’s only tested up to 100,000 shutter actions. At some point my camera will fail.

What type is something I often go back and forth on. Right now I’m leaning towards the 7200. I like looking at the higher end cameras, but I don’t think I’d take advantage of their extra features. What I’m most interested in now is less noise at higher ISO sensitivity. A larger buffer would be nice too.

Edited to add: We tried purple, it wasn’t for us.

Despite being a shorter month, Februrary’s numbers are up slightly. I earned $22.34 for a daily average of 77 cents. I’m slowly climbing towards that dollar a day goal. I also had almost 800 additional new users over January, thanks in part to being mentioned in a baby center forum post. (Much thanks for the love!)

This month I had only one new app, the Debt Pile Annihilator. The Debt pile annihilator compares different debt repayment strategies, such as the the snowball strategy of paying off smallest loans first, or the more optimal highest interest rate first.

Instead of focusing on new apps like I initially intended, I focused on site improvements.

There’s always a balance to be struck between writing code quickly, and writing it elegantly. I don’t get paid if I don’t publish the app. Therefore, the first time I write a new app in a new category, I focus more on getting it done quickly. Correctly, but quickly. Once I have more than one app in a given category it’s time to really focus on modularizing the code so I fix only need to fix each bug once. This month that meant both the image/photography apps and the financial apps.

While working on the financial apps I decided to make them more flexible, and allow for additional types of loans and debts, such as interest only loans, deferred interest department store cards, and changing rate loans. That ended up being a bit more time consuming than I initially estimated, partially because I had no idea how truly complex the financial industry can be. That’s one of the things I like about this self-employment journey. I am learning so much.

The other potential big issue I’ve been trying to get a handle of is the use of ad blockers. The numbers are still bouncing around a bit, but right now it looks like about 10% of my web traffic using a blocker, but I had one day as high as 30%. Ten percent is acceptable, 30% is most definitely not. For now I’m simply asking those using adblockers to consider turning them off when visiting my site. Please don’t pick on the little guy! $20/mo is barely enough to cover the costs (domain, hosting, bandwidth) associated with serving these apps to you. The little bits I get from adviews help, even if one never clicks on an ad. While one person’s ad blocker won’t make a difference, taken together it can be a big deal.

It’s been a busy month, but most of the changes have been internal and not noticeable. I do have a couple new apps almost ready to go out. Hopefully march will be the month of many noticeable changes.