Archive for May, 2018

May 30, 2018

Return to Shutterfly

It’s been years, but I suddenly find myself an active Shutterfly user again.

It started with the Christmas cards. After nearly a decade of printing and addressing them myself, our home printer ran out of ink forcing me to look for an online alternative. That alternative turned out to be Shutterfly. It worked out well, and I returned to Shutterfly for last years’ cards as well, but I still had a mental block using them for my other printing needs.

One afternoon while I was nursing Dana and browsing the internet aimlessly I started thinking about Santa plates.
Since the first realization that my second child was going to be a wintertime baby I’ve been wanting to do a special Cookies for Santa plate. My first idea was a wreath made out of handprints, like this. Anticipating the difficulty of getting a few good hand prints, let alone many, and in the right pattern, my plan was to get the prints on paper first and figure out how to transfer them to the plate later. I tried custom stamps, and tracing paper with food safe ceramic paint. No dice. Not only did my ideas not work, but it left me with the awkward problem of figuring out what to do with the wasted plates. They are my kids’ hand and footprints after all. Three years later it suddenly dawned on me – design the plates on the computer and print them.

Shutterfly had the best price again, so I whipped up a quick design and sent it off to the printers. I was super happy with the print quality, though my design left a little something to be desired. I promised myself I’d fix the design and buy a second plate with a coupon that seems to come every couple of weeks.

A short while later an offer for a free puzzle (not including shipping) graced my inbox. I have been hoping to spark a love of puzzles in my kids, and a custom puzzle with their faces seemed like it might do the trick.

The puzzle was great so I decided to order a framed canvas print (an image of one of the girls edited to look like water colors). I really liked the way Shutterfly’s canvas print appeared to be floating in the frame. None of the other places I looked at framed their canvases in the same way.

Three orders in a handful of weeks!

That’s when I started to become less enamored.

The plate resist arrived with scratches and other minor cosmetic defects. I asked customer service for a reprint. They obliged, but not until I proved the presence of the scratches which I always find annoying. The reorder arrived with more noticeable splotches of extraneous color. Both where several steps below the quality of the first test plate. I will probably use the scratched plate since it has the design I like. The kids won’t notice or care about the scratches, and I can edit the scratches out any photos I take. If it annoys me too much I’ll look into having it printed elsewhere.

My experience with the framed canvas print wasn’t much better. The frame cames without any kind of mechanism to hang it. No hooks, no wire of any kind. It wasn’t possible to just send the hooks, so Shutterfly is resent the print. The hook arrived in a plastic baggie staples to the frame. Plus side, I got to choose which frame I hung. Downside, both canvases had some pretty pronounced creases.

To their credit, Shutterfly really does try and fix things.

May 12, 2018

Dana at 4 Months

Dear Dana,

Shortly after you turned three months we moved you to the crib. I was reluctant, both sad you would no longer be beside me at night and worried we would disrupt your nighttime sleep, but we thought it might help with your napping and I wanted to get you used to the crib before the four month mark when most babies develop strong preferences about where and how they sleep. I’m happy to report you handled the change like a champ. You had an extra wake up the first night, but that was the extent of any descriptions, and you do seem to be napping better. I can usually get at least a half hour sleep cycle out of you in the crib, and lately it’s been even longer.

The other big change this month? You drink from a bottle now! You’ll drink between 3 and 4 ozes for Daddy. The trick was to switch nipples. I think you were frustrated with how much effort it took to get the milk came out of the bottle since you weren’t used to it yet. We tried a cheap freebie nipple that came with a package of ready made formula. Even though it was a “newborn” flow nipple the milk came out so fast you couldn’t help but gulp, and that triggered the sucking reflex. It was too fast for you, but once you realized the milk would come out of the bottle you were able to get the mechanics down. We switched you back to a nipple that was more your speed and you now you have no problem with the bottle. I’m happy to report you still prefer me.

This month you started really smiling. Really, really smiling. We could get smiles from you before, but they’re nothing compared to the ear to ear grin wide open mouth grins we now get from you now! And so easily! We could have called it a wrap at your monthly photo shoot with frame 1, it was seriously that good! No practice shots needed for you. I cannot wait to hear your first giggles. I have been giving you raspberries on your tummy and nibbling your neck, but so far you aren’t taking the bait. Maybe next month.

We got you to take the binky a few times this month, but not for very long. I mentioned it to your pediatrician who said at this point we’re unlikely to change you’re preferences. You may look so much like you’re sisters, but you’re determined to be wildly unique, aren’t you? You’re going to keep mommy on her toes, that’s for sure!

Love Always,
Mommy and Daddy

May 9, 2018

Bye Bye Productivity

The lack of sleep is starting to get to me. Most nights are usually split into two rounds of two to three hours each. As a result I feel myself being more and more sluggish as a slog through my todo list. I need to retool my approach, especially now that Dana is awake more during the day. More awake during the day means both fewer product hours on my phone while rocking her, and fewer productive hours while she’s napping in the crib. I try and reserve those few precious night time hours for what passes as sleep in this house.

I have a bit of a packing problem when it comes to tasks. During the day I have only pockets of free time, five or ten minutes here or there. 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 blocks of free time I have.

As an aside, I now know I have approximately 28.6 hours worth of non reoccurring tasks on my plate, not including all the “unknown time” tasks or all the reoccurring cleaning, household and business management I need to be doing on a regular basis. No wonder I feel so perpetually behind.

For me, keeping things 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 have seven projects (personal, household, business, photography, etc) and created a variety of sub projects. I now have a “Datayze” sub-project and a sub-sub-project for new features, as well as a sub-sub-project for bugs. Cleaning now has different sub projects for tasks specific to certain rooms (e.g. bathrooms). It may seem like organizational overkill, but it appears to be helping.

Not all tasks are created equal. 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. How important a task is depends partially on when it’s due, and what category it’s in. To help me find the critical tasks amount the less important, I made a filter based on project and due date. To help ensure my task list doesn’t remain gigantic forever, I made a filter for outstanding tasks that have been on my list for forever.

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 for my business. 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 in production. Such conditions could be a sign that I wasn’t ready to launch the new code, and did by mistake. Maybe I forgot a task wasn’t complete, or that I needed to finish an edge case for a feature.

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.