Diving into the Deep End

Orange cat tiptoeing past monitor and keyboard on a desk

Banned from the Desk

Whew! I’ve often read in the news that running a small business is a lot of work. Now I can tell you first hand: yes, there is a lot of work. Even a micro-business like Canitag Apps N Crafts is today has turned out to be a lot of work. And a lot of fun …

I know I’m weird – I was the geeky kid that loved diagramming sentences. I honestly thought I’d hate writing business plans, studying IRS pamphlets, reading layman’s explanations of the laws around small business, reading Board of Equalization rules, and all of the other “business” sides of the company. Oddly enough, I find I rather like it.
In a way, it is oddly reminiscent of software design — lots of quirky constraints, lots of puzzle solving to find a solution, lots of tedious work to get the details right, … The sensation of drinking from a firehose is also very familiar from the points in my software career where a job change meant coming up to speed quickly on unfamiliar software technologies.

Because I’ve still got a primary job, I decided to spend time up-front to build out canitag.com as a self-serve website. I’ve done lightweight HTML/CSS, Javascript, SQL, and Perl programming in the past so I figured it wouldn’t be all that bad, right? (Yeah — bottomless optimism is a more or less necessary trait in a software developer. Only an optimist would start a project knowing that it is likely to take twice as long as predicted and that the extra hours will come out of your weekends and nights.) That was back at the beginning of October. I was hoping to have this website up around Thanksgiving. Now I’m shooting for it as a late Christmas present to myself.

At any rate, I’m clawing my way up out of the newbie swamps with PHP, MySQL, Paint.NET (that is a great tool for the lay artist!), and CSS. I’m still struggling with CSS positioning — I’m sure I’m missing some key concept.

Oddly enough, I keep finding every week or two that what I’ve learned working on Canitag Apps N Crafts lets me solve a problem at work that would have been a long struggle before. I’m a hands-on kind of learner and find that I intermittently need skills that aren’t something I can practice at my day job.

Oh — before I forget, I’ve got one tip. Touch-screen monitors are really nice for prototyping tablet and smartphone apps. But touch-screen monitors and cats are a bad combo. I’ve got one cat that gets rather lovey-dovey with anything I’m using when she gets hungry. This afternoon, she managed to select and delete about 500 lines of code by some combination of touching my monitor with her nose and rubbing against the screen. She is now Banned From My Desk. Fortunately, she didn’t save her edits.

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