Archive for November, 2016

November 27, 2016

Happy Birthday, Alexis!

In what I’m sure will be our yearly tradition, we celebrated Alexis’ birthday with Family the weekend after Thanksgiving. I cannot believe how fast time is flying.


This was the first year of including Alexis’ in our giant number foil balloon tradition. Nicole was very excited for the foil balloon, and wanted to be the one to give it to Alexis when she awoke in the morning. Alexis ended up rather indifferent to it, preferring the small latex helium balloons, but she was willing to pose for a few photos with it. That worked out well for Nicole who not so secretly wanted a turn with the balloon.

For the party itself we opted for the simple approach: balloons, cake and family. I’m all about the easy peasy at 2nd birthdays, apparently.

We made the mistake of opening presents first. Present #2, Scout was followed by #3, a giant cookie monster stuffed animal. Her arms were full and she was not giving up either for anything. Not even temporary so she could open more presents. We ended up setting the remaining presents aside for another day, much to big sister’s chagrin.

Alexis blew out the candle with help from big sister. She declined of piece of cake, however, pulling her bib off and hoping out of the chair before the first piece was cut. Somehow she managed to escape inheriting my sweet tooth, and there were new toys to be played with. I tell Domingo this after every party, but we really need to look into getting the girls angle cake or pound cake. Neither is a fan of frosting.

The party ended with our second “great balloon release” (released inside in the stairwell). The balloon release was a huge hit on Nicole’s birthday, and likely the girls’ favorite part of Alexis’ birthday. The each took turns cutting the strings on the helium balloons and sending them up to the ceiling.

And, in case anyone is under the mistaken impression my kids are always cooperators, I present our funniest out take. Our little goof.


Despite not having a list, Domingo and I decided to go out black Friday shopping. We went out Thursday after the kids had gone to bed for some hot cocoa and to enjoy the atmosphere, and then took the kids out on Friday when the kids’ cabin fever forced us out of the house, but rain kept us away from the parks.

Turkey, Shmurkey

We arrived at Target about 2 hours after it’s initial opening. It was crowded, but not over overwhelmingly so. While we were waiting in line for those hot chocolates we couldn’t help but notice how many families were sitting down with sandwiches, pizzas and pastas. The barista commented that in those two hours since opening they had already sold more sandwiches than they sell in a typical day. I know that an early dinner on Thanksgiving day is probably more typical than not, but it appeared as though a large group of people may have opted out of the traditional meal altogether and in to a quick dinner at target once their shopping was complete.

Perhaps it’s because I’ve been thinking about the class divide of late, but I couldn’t help but wonder if skipping the meal was less about desire and more about necessity. Popular culture likes to caste black Friday as rampant consumption on luxury items that aren’t needed, but for people of limited means it’s sometimes black Friday or never. Surely one can make the use case that a laptop or computer is not necessary a luxury item in today’s digital world?

TVs in Threes

The hot item this year was clearly the 50″ and 55″ TVs. We saw person after person walking out with two or sometimes three large TVs. Apparently Target was selling 3,200 televisions per minute nationwide. If TVs are meant to be gifts, these shoppers are way more generous than I am. If they’re meant to be personal, I’m amazed at the size of the houses they must have. Domingo’s hypothesis was a spare TV for elderly parents.

TVs weren’t the only thing we saw bought in, for lack of a better word, bulk. We walked passed one couple that was dividing laptops between their two shopping carts to get around the “2 per person” limit. (Large family looking for laptops for the kids, maybe?)

I know it’s been a while since I’ve visited a store in person on Black Friday, but I was stunned by all I was witnessing.

The good news if you’re looking for a deal next year: 2 hours after opening, Target was still bringing out TVs and laptops in shifts. It didn’t appear that anyone who wanted one was going without.

We are Black Friday Small Potatoes

I did end up with the Costco laptop a month ago, otherwise I would have done the replacement with the same specs and saved myself another $150. Sigh. Can’t control when these things break, I guess.

We took advantage of the $4 and $6 sale of DVDs, as well as half priced board games for the kids. We also bought their winter wardrobe at 30% off.

Our biggest purchase was a new Keurig ($65). The cheap ($35) off brand one I bought over the summer was a huge waste. After a few months it broke and would spew water allover our counter top. It was under warranty but I still had to pay $10 shipping to replace it. The replacement only lasted a few weeks. Domingo didn’t feel like spending (wasting?) yet more money on coffee machines. I can understand that sentiment, but I know how much he enjoys his coffee and I feel like a little guilty being so often the beneficiary of our spending. Domingo is always way more willing to spend on money for extras for me (like my new lens, which was way more expensive). I put the Keurig in the shopping cart joking I wanted to take up coffee. Don’t worry, he saw right through me. I’ve never had a cup before in my life, and likely never will, but he is enjoying his daily cup.

We would have saved an additional $15 had I been able to figure out the cartwheel app in time. We got stuck in line behind a two college age kids buying three laptops and an ipad who were also opening a credit card to get an additional 5% discount. I used the time to download the app, but didn’t realize I had to select the relevant coupons. I am still miffed at myself about that.

November 21, 2016

How to Datayze Soft Launch

I’m delighted to share that I’m soft launching (How to) Datayze, the tutorial and tip side of Datayze.

I’ve been thinking about writing up some tutorials as a complement to the website apps for some time now. I’ve shared some of my ideas here, but wordpress has a tendency to mangle the formatting. I tried to force the formatting with CSS, but even that has proven to only be a partial solution. A blog format that incorporates the notion of freshness/staleness based on post age isn’t really the right place for tutorials, anyway. The tutorials were getting buried and hard to find. Besides, if it’s one thing I’ve learned, more traffic on one part of your site can give a collateral boost to the rest.

I liked the idea of having (how to) on it’s own subdomain, like, so that the URL reads as “howto datayze” but some Search Engine Optimization (SEO) gurus advised against it. For now, both addresses are accessible, but the primary address I’m linking to is

For a first past I wrote four articles:
How to Minimize CSS
How to Minimize Javascript
How to Convert a URL to a Query String
How to Add Spell Correction to 404 (based on a past blog post)

I’m keeping it as a soft launch soft launch because the technical writing isn’t where I want it to be. I’m hoping Google will Index the pages while I’m working on polishing up the text. (I’ve quickly become a SEO convert.)

My biggest fear in launching a tutorial section of datayze has been the technical writing aspect, and that the dyslexic mistakes I’m bound to make will make datayze look less professional overall. In a typical month I’ll get an email or two pointing out some of my misspellings and grammatical mistakes. I appreciate it, but also a bit embarrassed each time.

I’m really proud of the automation behind (how to) I wrote. I can copy and paste my php/javascript code and though the magic of javascript/css it’s nicely formatted with line numbers that aren’t selectable during a copy and paste. My first incarnation of a tutorial website required me to format the code myself. Pain. in. the. butt. Not to mention slow and error prone. The auto formatting script should get my tutorials up faster. The fact that line numbers aren’t selectable will make it easier for readers to just copy and paste the code snippets. Now if only I could automated the technical writing part, I’d be all set. (I think the desire to write this code is part of the reason I got over my fear of creating (how to) in the first place. I love creative solutions!)

Articles that are coming, once I figure out how to sufficiently generalize them so they’re useful for others.
– How to get around ad blockers
– How to automatically format code

Back to work for me.

November 16, 2016

My Burst Mode Preference

I’m apologetically a fan of shooting in continuous (burst) mode. For me, a typical photographic moment of a human or animal suggest might consist of:

* A single frame of a moment the instant I decide I want to capture it. It’s usually poorly framed, uninteresting shot from a photography perspective as it’s literally more instinct than thought at this moment. The goal of this frame is to have a record of the moment in case it passes before I have a chance to “get it right”. It’s the I-don’t-want-to-forget-this-spontaneous moment photo.
* A couple frames of the same moment where I’m in the process of moving and re-framing to get a more interesting photo. Each frame is usually progressively better, but there’s always a risk of camera shake ruining the shot since I’m usually moving and shooting at the same time.
* A couple frames when I’ve re-framed the photo as I want it to guard against blinks, shifting gazing or any other quick momentary issues that might otherwise ruin a photo.

The usual result is usually around 4-5 frames. I maintain that anyone who insists that multiple frames should not be necessary does not shoot very young kids often.

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been working on some portrait orientation photos of the kids. My mother-in-law gave me a lovely photo collage frame last Christmas and I it’s beyond time to fill it. I’ve placed a step stool on the floor to keep the girls somewhat contained, but they only stay put for a moment. It’s a game: sit, smile, get up, giggle at Mommy’s reaction, run away, come back and repeat. Fine by me, games make for better expressions.

Here’s frames #1, #2 and #4 from a four frame block of Alexis. Frame #3 is nearly identical to #2, but contains motion blur not noticeable in the thumbnail.


Frame #1 is my least favorite. Her gaze is too high. #2 is the shot I was going for. Frame #4 with that smirk is a keeper from a mom perspective, but not the type of photo I was after for the collage. She’s also leaning forward slightly in #4 because she’s about to spring up from the stool and run off. (That’s probably the origin of the slightly blur to #3). Even in this relatively paused moment there’s still a lot of variation.

The initial shutter lag of my camera is 0.25 seconds, but drops to 0.11 for successive photos in contiguous mode. That’s not including the lag tag for my eyes to communicate what they’re seeing to my brain, and my brain to send the single for my finger to push the button. That may sound pedantic, but the human response time to visual stimuli is about a .25 second. All total, there’s a half second delay from identifying the “perfect moment” and having the shutter react. If I shot a single frame, I’d have just as high a probability of capturing frame #3 as #2.

Since I’m doing formal photos I don’t need to worry about capturing the spontaneous moment, but I still have that first, not quite framed right photo. Had it been the one with the best expression, I would have re-cropped it and kept it for my wall.

I think most of the critics of burst mode are favoring process over results. For a lot of photographers, the idea of shooting in continuous or boost mode is synonymous with “spray and pray”. Spray and pray refers to shooting first and frequently (spraying) without thought in the hopes of getting lucky (praying). Critics of spray and pray point out that it can be a crutch and does have a penalty associated with it. Each extra shutter action does create ware and tare on your camera (although the vast majority of us will never shoot enough for the extra ware and tare to matter.) Each file does take up additional space on your hard drive (if you’re like me and never delete anything ever that’s a significant issue). Finally, it costs you more time to go through each frame to find the best one. I’m guilty of this one too.

For us momtographers it’s not always about learning, or honing your skills. Sometimes you just want to have that beautiful photo for the wall, process be damned.

November 11, 2016

A Fear I Know All To Well

I’ve spent this week in a bit of shock. The election did not go as I anticipated, and I’ve been bouncing from analysis to analysis trying to get a better understanding of why. There’s been a lot of discussion on the economic fears of middle class American’s, one in particular has taken up permanent residence inside my brain. Paraphrasing: It’s the fear that they cannot provide for their kids’ what they had growing up.

I know that fear. I know how all encompassing it can be. Last year, when we realized we couldn’t make the life style we wanted in Silicon Valley work, and we were struggling to get an offer accepted, everything felt so unaffordable. I spent more than a few nights in tears after the girls went to sleep. I wanted them to have everything I had growing up. Never mind that Silicon Valley was different from the suburban town I grew up. Never mind that the housing markets and school systems were different. Never mind that houses came bigger back then, with yards to play in, then they do now. Never mind that there were more top school systems to take our pick of. I felt like I should be able to give them every advantage my parents gave me. I felt like I was falling short and they would suffer because of it. I felt like I was failing them.

Now that we’ve moved that fear has shifted. I feel like I should be doing more to insulate them from the harsh realities of the world. I sometimes lie in bed awake at night worrying about the affordability of housing, and what that will mean for the girls when they reach adult hood. I feel a tremendous pressure to not only succeed, but to succeed big enough that I can bootstrap their lives when they become adults. I never want them to feel this fear.

I felt that fear for a short period of time, and it left a significant imprint on me. I can image how feeling that fear for day after day, year after year, with no solution in sight can make one desperate. Desperate enough to believe in impossible promises from a flawed messenger.

I wish I had answers. All I have is empathy.

November 6, 2016

A (mobile) Bullet Dodged

The past couple of months I’ve worked on a number of optimization and improvement projects for, most of which the immediate benefits of were either small or unknown. Projects like adding an SSL certificate or minifying code. Sure it’s generally better to have an https connection, but it’s not strictly necessary for a website that doesn’t handle sensitive information. The code footprint was small, so that 20% gain I got from minifying it didn’t amount to a significant difference. I considered these projects future proofing. Maybe some day I’ll serve premium apps that require payment, and code footprints have a tendency to grow. Besides, these projects are all good practices web developers are encouraged to follow as a matter of principle. Google wasn’t penalizing websites who weren’t following these best practices yet, but was leaving the door open to in the future.

For at least one of those projects that future is now, apparently.

Google is now experimenting with mobile first version of their index. Now is a good time to have a mobile friendly website, especially one using dynamic serving like Datayze where the content between the desktop version and the mobile version is identical, but displayed in a device friendly way. Some speculate that the change will result in a penalty for desktop only centric websites, however that does not appear to be the case. Yet. There’s that word again. As we become an increasingly mobile world, I can imagine a scenario were it is more advantageous to use the mobile based index for all searches, than to keep two indexes, or use the desktop based version.

The change to a mobile first index is coming at a rather fortuitous time since I started creating the mobile friendly versions of my apps back in August and had just about finished them. I had exactly five pages left that technically satisfied the mobile friendly test, though my human eye wasn’t quite satisfied with them yet.

Admittedly I had mixed emotions when I first heard the news. Fear. (What if my mobile version website isn’t as robust as I think it is.) Excitement. (Maybe the fact that I’m mobile friendly now will give me a competitive advantage of my competition that hasn’t made the leap yet.) It looks like most of my competition is already mobile friendly, so this change probably a wash for me. Good news: at least it’s not a penalty like it could have been!

Onward and Upward.

It’s been a phenomenal month, but before I dive into it, let’s recap last month. In October, I had my highest ever grossing day ($4.03), and an 8 day stretch averaging $2/day. In total I earned $36.51 which was one of my better months. I didn’t mention it in my previous blog post, but the number of users is up 48% compared to September. That’s the first major increase in user base I’ve had since starting my business back in 2014!

On to this month.

This month I earned $70.72, for a daily average of $2.28. I had a $6.10 day, a $6.05 day, and a 15 day stretch averaging $3/day! I also had a 74% increase in the user base compared to October! A very good month indeed. More good news: I’ve also had a number of clicks on the static ads I generate when an adblocker is detected. I’m always happy when something I’ve spent a lot of time on bares fruit, and I spent a great deal of effort on that script!

It’s been a good month and their are plenty of reasons to be even more optimistic about November. I indicated early this month that my search clicks were ever increasing. That patterned mostly continued throughout the month. This past week the increase is a little less clear, but that could be due to the holiday. That means even if everything holds steady, November will likely have a larger user base than October. The value of a click is still higher than it used to be, but lower than last month. It may seem counter intuitive to be grateful for that, but I worry that a high click value is a random event and not sustainable.

This month I’m hoping for $100 for the month. Given the ever increasing user base I think it’s possible. There are a couple of possible monkey wrenches, however, that could keep me from reaching that goal. There’s one day less in November, and the Thanksgiving week is historically a tough one for my business as most people are offline and enjoying family time. Least year I had a 17% decrease in average daily users after November 21st than compared to before. Revenue practically disappeared. Over Halloween weekend (which I’m defining as Friday the 28th though Halloween) I only had a 8% decrease in daily users, but that corresponded to a 36% decrease in daily revenue.

As for progress, it’s another month of mostly tinkering under the hood.

The increase in traffic is forcing me to address some long standing issues. Now that my user base is up so much even my unpopular apps are getting some hits. Up until this point my modus operandi has been to release early and give the search engines a chance to index it. In entrepreneur terms it’s called the Minimum Viable Product (MVP). My Site Navigability Analyzer, for example, did not have a way of re-crawling a page. If one had a broken link on their domain, the Site Navigability Analyzer would record the error and move on to the other pages. There was no way to tell the crawler that the page was fixed and to recrawl just that page. The webmaster would need to start the crawler over at the beginning. That’s fixed now.

I did release a new app this month, but I’m not ready to talk about it as it’s accuracy just isn’t where I need it to be yet.

This coming month I’m going to divide my focus between continued app improvements, and the continued Search Engine Optimization (SEO) effort. The correlation between increased search traffic and increased forumn linking to app URLs is stronger than I anticipated, and runs both ways. Continued SEO is likely the best path forward to quickly grow my business.

November 1, 2016

Trick or Treating With Two

Can I just say how much I love how well my kiddos eat? Yesterday was their Halloween party at school. They had a room set up for the 2 and older kids with candy corn sprinkled across the table and a cupcake at each spot. Alexis, whose a month shy of two, was invited to join and she sat next to her big sister. Both girls rejected their cupcake in favor of fruit, although Nicole did eat a bit of the frosting on hers. I loved it because not only did they get something healthy, but Mommy got to eat the cupcake Alexis licked and subsequently set aside. (Hey, it’s not like anyone else was going to eat it!)

When we got home all Nicole asked if she could eat one of her candies from her school party, and I told her she could have two from her pumpkin after we went trick or treating. She was ridiculously excited with the concept of two. I figured we’d have more back and forth negotiation the amount of candy consumption allowed, but when Nicole accepted two I decided to roll with it.

The kids were feeling warm to me, so I took their temperatures before dinner. Nicole was fine, but Alexis clocked in at 99.6. She wasn’t acting sick, so we decided “daycare rules” applied. (If they’re not sick enough to be sent home from daycare, they can probably go trick-or-treating.) Luckily the two candy limit had already been established. At the time I was thinking her fever was probably just teething related, but you never know. Why jinx a stomach flu by letting them gorge on candy?

Initially we were planning on sending the kids exactly as they were last week, with a shirt or leggings underneath their costume if it ended up being cold. Nicole was really excited to wear her new boots. Alexis too. But as luck would have it, Alexis ended up with her first pair of light up shoes on Sunday. When I asked her which pair of shoes she wanted, she choose the light up ones. Light up shoes are great for trick-or-treating! They were way brighter than the glow stick bracelets.

(pictures the day of were on my cell phone and didn’t turn out very well. This was the best.)

Speaking of glow stick bracelets, those were a major disappointment. One broke and leaked purple fluorescent liquid all over the place. Next year it’s light up shoes for all!

We had been working with Alexis all week to say “Trick-or-treat”. She had an adorable “Ahhh…TREAT!” mastered, but was a bit shy the day of. They shyness was mostly just around speaking, however. When we arrived at the second house I had to stop her from grabbing the door knob and letting herself in! Ringing the doorbell is just too inefficient I guess.

We started earlier this year (one of our lessons learned from last year) and finished right at seven o’clock. Alexis is usually in bed by 6:30, 6:45 at the latest. I asked her if she was sleepy. In typical little kid fashion her response was an emphatic “No!” while rubbing her eyes. We decided to visit one more house, and it ended up being that of one of Nicole’s teachers! She loved that.

When we got home we let the girls pick their two candies. Alexis objected when we put their pumpkins away, but her objection was short lived as Daddy was also simultaneously opening her second piece of candy for her. Both kids went to bed very happy and very tired. After they were asleep we raiding Alexis’ pumpkin pail for all the candies she was too little for. They were put in Nicole’s pumpkin pail and replaced with them with more age appropriate candies we had left over from our own trick-or-treaters.

This morning both Alexis and I awoke with heavy congestion. I’d blame mine on the shared cupcake, but I’ve had the sore throat precursor since Sunday.

I’ll write my usually monthly business progress report tomorrow, assuming I’m feeling a bit less foggy by then.