Archive for September, 2016

September 27, 2016

A Bad Fall

A few days ago I saw an adult male deer out by the fence. It’s only the second time I’ve seen a buck, so naturally I grabbed my camera, my telezoom (55-200mm) lens and raced outside.

50% crop. Click for non-resized version.

Sad Trombone. At 1/4000 a second, in full daylight the photo should have been sharp. I started taking photos of various things around me. Anything at focal length 100mm and above started to look blurry. That’s when I remembered the incident of the previous week. After spotting some wild turkeys I had rushed to grab my camera and distance lens. My hand slipped as I was screwing the lens in place. I lost my grip on it and it hit the stone floor hard. Hard enough I was amazed the glass didn’t shatter. I missed my chance at the turkeys, counted my lucky stars that I wasn’t sweeping up glass, and put the lens and camera back.

I don’t think my stars were quite so lucky after all.

The internet seemed to think it was just the focal elements knocked out of alignment. Not great, but not horrible. The lowest price I saw quoted anywhere for Nikon lens repair was about $40 plus shipping. I could save myself the shipping cost by going to a local certified Nikon repair place, but I’ve always found local labor tends to be a bit more expensive than national averages. (One of the perils of a high cost of living area.) I figured $50 was likely the cheapest repair price I could expect to pay.

The lens in question was a 7 year old kit lens that cost $150 new. You can reliably get one used for $100 off e-bay, and sometimes as low as $80. That also meant my lens, in working condition, would be worth at best $100. I was on the fence. After all, I’ve been thinking about a new Telezoom lens since 2014. My 55-200 was certainly serviceable, although not the lens I would have preferred. “Was” being the operative word.

That evening, after the kids were asleep, I decided to take the lens off my camera and have a look at it. A spring had become dislodged. Those things are re-attachable. No biggie. I thought. Except as I was turning the lens over in my hand, the head of the spring fell off! The spring was now in two pieces, and one of those metal pieces was dangerously close to the glass. I got out my trusty tweezers and very carefully removed the free floating metal spring piece. That’s when I noticed another metal piece had snapped and a band had come loose. The repair wasn’t going to be just realigning the elements. There were at least a couple pieces that needed to be replaced, and I couldn’t even be sure that the physical damage I could observe was the extend of it.


At that point I had pretty much decided against repairing the lens. If I did nothing, the longest zoom I had would be the 85mm, which would make some photos much more challenging. I also didn’t really feel like spending the money to replace it. Not the $100 for the same lens when I wasn’t fully content with it’s reach, nor the $500 for the 70-300 which I had been considering replacing it with for the past couple of years. I did find a factory refurbished 70-300 on for $350, but that still felt like more money then I should be spending right now. It’s not like I need to be photographing the deer. Domingo’s opinion was to
go ahead and buy the new lens since Photography makes me happy. He spoils me. After a few hours I decided to go back and check on the refurbished lens. Someone else had already snapped it up.

I hate to let emotions dictate shopping decisions, but I was bummed. Really bummed. Even though I hadn’t committed to buying the lens. So bummed I couldn’t sleep that night. At around 3 am I started searching around for more refurbished lenses, eventually finding one on Nikon’s store for $299. Done. (Or rather done in the morning after I managed some sleep and could be sure I wasn’t letting my frustration get the best of me.)

As for the 55-200? Once the new lens arrives I’m going to have some fun taking the old lens apart and getting a better feel for how they work.

Incidentally, this is the second refurbished lens I will own. I highly recommend them if you want more lens but don’t want to spend the money. I prefer refurbished to used. A lens can have minor damage that’s hard to pick up on. If it’s factory refurbished you know you’re getting like-new.

September 21, 2016


After a strong start to the month, my stats started to dive off a cliff.

Daily Clicks from Google Search Results

Okay, that’s not really reason to panic. The above graph from the Google Webmaster Tools, and shows the organic search clicks on my website. I also use Google Analytics, which showed a 44% increase in users in the past 30 days compared to the prior period, further supporting my theory that my business was growing, not shrinking. Diving into the Google Analytics metrics I see two to three times as many organic search clicks from Google than reported in the Google Webmaster Tools, which indicates Google Webmaster Tools may be under reporting. Besides, even if traffic was down, I already had a likely culprit: the switch from http to https and know I just need to ride out the storm.

It turns out that Google Webmaster separates out traffic by protocol, so I needed to create another property to capture the https data.

No reason to panic.

At least not over that.

When I was digging into the problem I came across a couple websites that showed their average click rates. From there I could get a better picture of how much traffic “top” websites get, and a potential ceiling for my business. It looks like it’s much lower than my ultimate target. On top of that, while I nearly doubled revenue this year compared to last, I’d need to keep doubling for the next seven years in order to reach my target. That’s a long time to go without a steady paycheck, not to mention a pretty unsustainable growth rate to maintain.

Datayze, in it’s current conception, may be infeasible.

I am not giving up, but I do recognize the need for a new strategy.

September 17, 2016

Hello, Alexa!


Technically it’s “Hello, Echo!” We had to change the wake word since ‘Alexa’ and ‘Alexis’ are too phonetically similar.

Last Amazon Prime day I purchased the Echo. It’s sat in it’s box until now. I clearly have not learned my lesson. At least this time I didn’t buy two.

I admit I wasn’t sure how much use case we’d get out of Echo. With our push for a smart home, it seemed like a tool that would one day control everything. At the time I didn’t realize that it could talk to our new irrigation system at the time of purchase. I did think it would be nice to ask Echo about the weather while busy trying to dress the kids in the morning. It’s not often I have a hand free to crack open my laptop or check my mobile device. It would also be nice to have a way of playing Christmas music. We gave up the only stereo we had when we downsized, and laptop speakers don’t work as well.

When Amazon had its sale we figured we’d grow into Echo.

Now that it’s set up I can say it’s worth it now.

Nicole is constantly asking it to play songs, only she doesn’t know their titles so her request of “please play Elsa” falls on confused digital ears. Domingo has been referring to Echo as “the robot” and now Nicole is eager to build a robot of her own. That makes this engineering Mama extremely happy to hear.

Alexis, for her part, runs around chanting “Ek-oh! Ek-oh!” When Alexis woke up from her nap this afternoon I asked her if she wanted to play with Nicole. She only blinked at my groggily. I asked if she wanted to play with Echo? “Ek-oh!” She puts too much of a pause between the syllables for Echo to understand her, but I’m sure she’ll get the hang of it in no time.

It took the girls less than 20 minutes to figure out they could add crackers to Mommy’s shopping list. That may be off putting to some. Had it not been possible to disable voice purchasing I would have been annoyed too. Since I can, and don’t need to worry about spurious photos, I’m eager to see my kids learn how to interact with all kinds of technology. Maybe in a few years I’ll be able to hire Nicole as an App developer. She’s already inspired enough to build a robot.

So that’s speakers, future proofing for our smart home, a toy for the kids and fostering our love of robotics all for just $141 (with tax). Well, and an additional $7.74 so Nicole could listen to the full songs from Frozen, and not just the 30 second free samples.

September 17, 2016

Camera Ready


Who is this child, and what did they do with my Alexis?!

Alexis has long been my child who merely tolerates the camera. She’ll cooperate for me, provided I don’t over do it. But others? Nope. Her last round of school photos were a complete bust. She started crying the minute the she was brought into the room, so the photographer had her sent back to class without attempting a single frame. I admit I was more than a little bummed about that. This is the same studio that did the vintage style photo for the playroom, and I was looking forward to an updated version.

Rather than just be bummed, I decided to reach out to the JCPenney’s photographer we had success with. I called up and asked if they could do a similar vintage shoot. I also needed an updated family photo for our living room. Why not kill two birds with one stone?

That was last Friday.

The beginning of the session wasn’t promising. Alexis clung to me and cried when I tried to have her just stand by my side. But by the end of the session a transformation had taken place. Alexis was eating up all the praise she was getting for holding a pose and smiling, and the photographer kept doting on her for being so cooperative. It created a bit of a feedback loop and my camera shy little girl was behaving much more like her camera loving big sister than I ever remember her being. It was especially amazing because the photographer was giving her complicated directions I wouldn’t expect a two year old to be able to understand, but she did and happily obliged! She not only posed as requested, but held the pose for the photographer.

Today I got out my camera and asked Alexis to sit in the chair so I could take a picture. She posed herself (though this is one of the poses the JCPenney photographer had asked for), and held it long enough for several snaps. I shot Nicole next. Once Nicole was done, Alexis climbed back up into the chair with her teddy bear, ready for found two.

Before today it’s been four weeks since I last picked up my camera. I had been feeling rather uninspired. Now that I have two eager models I will have to make up for lost time!

September 12, 2016


Yesterday I came across an article from Tech Crunch about google heavily pressuring website owners to move from the http protocal to the more secure https. In the article they’re discussing about chrome in the article, not search, but I think it’s a reasonable assumption that a similar policy may be in place in search, if not now than in the near future. If two websites have comparable content, why not favor the one with the better user experience?

I admit as of late I’ve been a bit more reactive and not enough proactive than I’d like. Still, it seemed like good timing to make the change since I was already going through all this renaming pain. I recently opted to remove the ‘www’ subdomain from all my URLs which appears to have affected the google index for my websites. Just as the URL is technically different from, is technically different from While it would have been better to have gone from to in one step, making the change would at mean any pain from renaming would at least overlap a little instead of costing me twice.

It would be nice to log into my blog over an https connection so I don’t have to fear a man in the middle attack any time I write a new blog post. I’m also considering eventually adding an ad-free experience for a nominal fee which would necessitate a secure connection.

The final driver towards making the https plunge was the discoery that dreamhost offers and SSL certificate for free. Yesterday I added the Let’s Encrypt! certificate to When that went off smoothly I went ahead and added one to

I have no idea if it’ll help my search rankings, but at least it couldn’t hurt. Probably.

September 7, 2016

Cognitive Leaps

Tonight, as many nights, Nicole was playing with her foam letter bath toys in the bath tub. She’ll hold up a letter and ask “what letter is this?” After answering her, I’ll follow up with “what sound does it make?” or “what words begin with it?”

Tonight she handed me the E. I told her it was the first letter in the word “eh-eh-elephant” and asked her if she knew what it was.


She’s made this mistake before, with the same letter and word. Last time I corrected her, which seemed too discouraging in retrospected. This time I found the L and held it next to the E. “Yes! The E makes the Eh sound and the L makes the Elle sound so it’s E-L-ephent, Eh-Elle-ephent.”

Seeing those two letters next to each other, something clicked in her for the first time. She suddenly understood the connection between a string of letters and the word they spelled. She wanted to spell and sound out the entire word. The letter set only has one instance of each letter so we spelled ‘Elphant’, followed by ‘Princes’. (Hey, it’s the process that’s important not the exact letter sequence, right?!)

I’m a proponent of free play, and not really comfortable with the notion of formal preschool at such a young age. The research that free play sparks curiosity really resonated with me because it echos the experience of my childhood. Yet here we are, studying phonics in the bath tub.

I don’t have as much confidence in this whole parenting thing as I’d like to believe. We’re in a highly competitive area academically speaking. Some of the other kids can already read and recognize words. I was afraid Nicole kindergarten significantly behind her peers. I didn’t want her teacher forming a negative impression of her ability. Impressions, deserved or not, can be difficult to change. So we started going over letters and numbers. I even signed her up for phonics and math class at her preschool, though not without some hesitation. Sometimes it feels like a giant waste of money. Sometimes I just wish other parents would relax. But most of all I wish I didn’t let the peer pressure get to me.

At least she seems to be enjoying her letters and numbers.

September 5, 2016


I enjoyed sharing some fun stories of Nicole, which I dubbed Nicolies. Now that Alexis is stringing words together in simple sentences and phrases, we can share some Alexies as well.

“No, Fries!”

At meal time we give the girls a little of everything. They have to eat the request amount of everything before they can recieve more of their favorites. This works, even for Alexis, although she does sometimes try to barter. We’ll point to the vegetable and say “first!” and she’ll stuff a piece of fish in her mouth instead before repeating her request for her favorite foods.

The other day we were trying to get Alexis to eat more green beans before she could have a sip of water from the big girl cup. (She can have as much as she wants from the sippy.) Domingo said “first!” point to her green beans. Alexis glanced down at the plate, looked up and said “No, Fries!” holding up her last french fry offering to eat it instead.

“Daddy, Down!”

Little siblings tend to learn quite early to blame their older siblings on owies. Alexis will run up to us, point somewhere on her body and say “Owie, Nicole!” to indicate big sister did it. She’ll do it even when big sister isn’t around and could not possibly be the culprit.

This weekend I was coming downstairs and I noticed Domingo scolding Alexis for being on the landing. She came running up to me with all the same urgency that she says “Owie Nicole!” only this time it was “Daddy, Down!”.

“Did Daddy take you down from the step?” I ask.
“Yeah!” she says emphatically.
“Because we aren’t allowed on the step?”

She gave me that look she gives when she doesn’t want to answer the question. Despite knowing she wasn’t allowed on the stair, she seemed genuinely perplexed Daddy wasn’t scolded. I guess she views me as the one in charge around here.

“Owie, Owie, Get Down!”

Most of our little monkey’s sayings these days revolve around owies (real, phantom, and pending) and getting down.

Last weekend we took the girls to the circus. The opening act was the acrobats. When the lights turned on and Alexis saw them up on the apparatus she pointed and shouted “Owie, Owie, Get Down!”

“Fwee, Four, Ive!”

The thing that amazes me the most is that Alexis can count! If you start her by saying “One, Two” she’ll reliably go to five, and occasionally six. I’m sure at this point it’s just like singing the alphabet song, all rote memorization with no real understanding, but it’s still adorable to watch. I need to get it on video.

This month was another poor preforming month, but there’s reasons to be hopeful. I earned $19.61 cents, a little over double what it was last year, even though it’s half of what I was making just two short months ago. That’s the bad news.

The good news is that traffic to my website has returned to the pre-new name launch. Clicks have steadily increased since July to about 90% of what they previously where. It’s been close to, but not quite two months since I purchased the new domain name. Everything I had been reading seem to imply it could be two to three months before a return to normal, so it looks like I may even be a little ahead of schedule.

Actual clicks reported from Google Webmaster Tools

If you spend any part of your day coding, you’ve probably heard the expression “premature optimization is the root of all evil.” Apparently that holds true for search engine optimization as well. After the site map issue, I burned myself again with the canonical URLs.

Despite the missteps, the optimization seems to be paying off in the long run. Google is now indexing way more of my site. We’re up to about 24% of my entire (paramaterized) site being indexed. I’ve also noticed some additional traffic from those additional paramaterized URLs. One of the URLs paramaterized was the Miscarriage Reassurer. For example, now jumps you to the odds for 5 weeks, 2 days. Seeing a few of those paramaterized URLs for landing pages makes me realize how much more common it is to query for “miscarriage odds at 5 weeks 2 days” than generically “miscarriage odds.” I only started to see this behavior in the last couple of days, so I’m hoping this trend will continue and make for a strong September, if nothing else in terms of user base.

I’ve also been working on site speed. I’ve set up browser caching and minified my CSS and Javascript. I had to write my own custom minifier after a few I downloaded didn’t work. It turns out Javascript can be particularly nasty to minify when doing a shallow parse, especially when your code contains regular expressions which are not quoted.

Finally I’ve been working on making my site mobile friendly. Half the apps have already been converted and another couple will be finalized in the next day or two. The last few will be a bit challenging since they generate large tables which won’t fit nicely on small screens. After minifying Javascript I feel ready for the challenge.

I’ve been continuing to work on behind the scenes improvements, so I don’t have any new apps to report (though I do have a few nearing completion.) Next month.