July Update

Last June, I did a general update about me, work, houses, cars, Kodery, and more. It’s been a year, and a lot has changed, and more is going to change in the coming months too. So it feels like a good time to do another update.

Me

I started writing this paragraph saying that nothing much has changed. But then I realised that quote a lot has changed.

My face still hasn’t worked out that I want it to grow a proper beard, and I’m still as skinny as ever, but I’m eating lunch most days. Whilst I’m still not generally looking forward to eating like most people do, I’m trying to make an effort to eat at more sensible times. I can’t remember the last time I had breakfast though.

I’ve also put more effort into sleeping at a sensible time. I’ve stopped listening to podcasts as I fall asleep which seems to have helped a little bit. I’ve also been trying harder to not sleep past my alarms going off. This is not a spring, but a marathon, and I feel I’m on the 10th mile.

Work

My little company turned 2 years old in May, and last year I had 22% increase in turnover. My the end of May 2018, I would like to see a 30% increase over 2017.

I’ve had a little more variation in work too, with numerous projects from 4 clients. I’m about to start some projects for 2 new clients too, so it looks like my client base will grow slightly. This is something I’ve wanted for a year, as diversity of income can only be a good thing. If I lost one of those 4 clients last year, I would struggle to make ends meet. With 6 clients, I’m finding my calendar booked up most of the time, so I can invoice more often, and if I did loose one of those clients, it won’t be too much of a struggle.

House Hunting

We needed to wait for the business to turn 2 years old before my income could be accounted for in a mortgage application. The day came, the books were done, and we booked an appointment with a mortgage advisor my accountant recommended. We went and saw him, and were frankly stunned with what we could borrow.

The past few months were filled with looking at online ‘how much can you borrow’ calculators and inputting the figures in various ways, and ether getting a result that meant buying a caravan, or mansion in the city. We really didn’t know what to think, but were expecting an offer on the low end. So when we were told what we could borrow, I was overjoyed. It isn’t a huge amount of money, it’s probably low compared to many, but it means we can buy an average sized house for the more built up areas of South East England.

We’re viewing a property this weekend, and it all goes well, we could be in within a few months.

Me choosing to start a limited company instead of being a sole trader might just be the best business decision I’ve made so far. I know of a couple where 1 person is a sole trader and they’re finding it impossible to get a mortgage, and I think they combined earn more than us.

Wedding

I didn’t talk about the wedding last year, because we hadn’t progressed with anything, this year is the opposite. Most wedding suppliers tend to work a year in advanced, so now is the time to look at dresses and florists. We first booked the venue, and within a couple of weeks had the photographer and cake sorted. Hayley has now bought a dress1, as have an appointment with a florist next weekend, and I’m waiting for autumn to get my suit.

This Blog

Did you notice it changed? Didn’t think so, my average daily visitors is in single digits. I’ve re-built it on Jekyll, and added the ability to do link posts.

There’s always things I want to share with a quick bit of text, but they get lost on Twitter2, so they’ll go here instead. Cool videos, interesting articles, whatever takes my fancy. For years, I tried to keep a theme to this blog, but it should be a feed of whatever the fuck goes through my head that’s safe to publish, so that’s what I’m going to do.

Anyway, things may be broken. There’s no vendor prefixing at the moment, and no images are optimised, but it’s a start.

  1. I haven’t seen the dress, obviously. All I know it that’s ivory in colour, I think? 

  2. I should do a post about Twitter. It might just be the people I follow, but it now feels like a news feed and platform for arguments instead of a place for pleasant conversation. 

Late Nights

I’ve written a few times about how I tend to work better at night. Trouble is, it’s not sustainable.

What typically happens is, I get some requests in from clients to do little jobs (quick 30 minute things). I don’t like having those sit around, so I try to do them all in one evening, but they inevitably stretch over to the next day, and that puts me behind on larger projects. I then need to work later to catch up on those, but that then ruins my sleeping pattern, and the only time I’m productive is late at night.

Take today for example, I woke up around 11am, It takes me an hour or so to get into the right frame of mind to code, then I work for a few hours. Then dinner comes, and I lose my streak. I then get back into the right mindset about 10pm, then work ‘till 1/2am, and eventually fall asleep about 3am, if not later. That then affects my eating habits, because my sleeping pattern is about 5 hours behind my eating patterns. I can count the number of times I’ve had breakfast in 2017 on one hand.

Spread over the day, the hours I do work constitute a full day, but I really don’t like it. It means I’m constantly feeling anxious about not having done enough work yet, and having the energy to ‘catch up’ later that night.

Anecdotally, I remember John O’Nolan telling me that when he turned 25 (or 24, not sure now), he suddenly started waking up early in the mornings, like a switch was flicked in his head. Given that I’ve struggled with this shitty sleeping pattern for about 6 years, I really hoped that would happen to me. Obviously, it didn’t, and I need to do something about it.

I’ve said countless times that I need to do something about this, but I’m starting to see it affect my health  too, mostly down to eating, like I mention above.

I’m not sure what the solution is yet. It could be to slowly force myself to get up slightly earlier each day with some form of incentive like a beer in the evening, or something more drastic like rigging up a cup of water above the bed that is set to tip over me at a certain time, if it senses me in bed still.

I think the first logical step is to try more alarms, so let’s see how this goes.

2016 In Review

For the last couple of years, I've done a month by month review of the year. After seeing Remy Sharp's post, I thought that was a better format, so I'm copying the idea. Given that a few months would just be summarised as 'work', it feels more appropriate.

Professional

My little company, Cross Stroke, turns 2 this year. I will do a more detailed post like this on the Cross Stroke blog (which I need to build) in May. But, some highlights of the year would be:

  • Started using OmniFocus to manage my tasks. After hearing ;a couple episode of Canvas by Federico Viticci and Fraser Speirs (part 1, and part 2), I was compelled to pay for what is – relatively speaking – an expensive todo app. I'm glad I did though, and I'd buy it again if I needed to.
  • Used a calendar to book in blocks of time and, for the most part, kept on schedule.
  • Started saving money for tax bills, so no late nights and rushed work when those bills come around.
  • Drastically improved my work ethic, and now treat it as a separate business, not an extension of me. It is a limited company, and I might run it, but it should be treated and thought of as a separate entity.

Personal

2016 was a bit of a blur for me. Most of my attention was on the business, but there were definitely some great highlights.

  • Hayley & I visited Disneyland Paris twice, making it a total of four times in two years. We're saving the next Disney trip for our honeymoon in 2018.
  • Very recently, we passed a huge milestone in saving for a mortgage deposit. I'm not going to say what we have saved, but suffice to say we're over the 5% required the sort of house we're after.
  • I picked up the second Focus ST3 after Ford missed an option on the purchase sheet that I was paying for.
  • I drove around Wales for a couple days in May, and found out sleeping in the back of a Ford Focus isn't the most comfortable, but doable. I also found out all of us having a CB radio is amazing. I wish I got more photos and some video of it, so there'll have to be another trip for that!
  • I bought a top-spec 27" 5K iMac, and it's amazing. I've been a laptop guy since 2008, so it was a paradigm shift for me, but well worth it. Having one place I sit and work has helped me focus.
  • Hayley & I spent a couple days in Nottingham at a fancy hotel, to get away from our Mac's for a while. It was lovely.
  • I drove over 1000 miles for 2 conferences in the North of England.
  • My sleeve tattoo had a little addition; a stag. I didn't realise it was in vogue before we did it.
  • My neighbour (of 20 years) got married and we went to the wedding. it was set in a lovely little country house.

2017

I've written several times about planning big changes in how I live and approach things. Turns out, those homes and aspirations are just words. If I tackle one thing at a time and don't give it much thought, I'm far more likely to succeed.
However, I do have a few things I'd like to do in 2017:

  • Try my hand at making a weekly video. I hope the pressure of trying to make it interesting will help me seek out a little more fun and variety in life. I suspect it'll start out as a weekly vlog, with the occasional fun trip and adventure.
  • Keep making steady progress on my eating patterns.
  • Tying in with eating patterns, try to improve my working hours. When we do buy a house, working from 8pm to 2am isn't something I want to force Hayley to live with.
  • Learn all I can about the process of buying a house, so when we do, I know all the options and processes, and am well prepared for the whole thing. That means the mortgage stuff, kitting the house out, and what running a limited company from home means.

Back To Kodery

Back in December 2015 I wrote about the future of Kodery, my little code snippet storage app I started in 2009, when I didn’t have lots of grey hair. I sort of forgot about it, but in the last month or so, I’ve found myself using it more and adding more snippets. That promoted me to go and look at the results of the poll, and after reseting my password because I forgot it and didn’t put it in 1Password, I saw the numbers.

Charge a sensible amount 24 44.44%
Sell it 17 31.48%
Close it down 13 24.08%

That’s 54 people who replied, and of those who replied 75.92% want it to keep alive, whether I charge for it, or sell/give it to someone else. Even though those numbers are tiny, it’s given me a little hope. Somebody wants it.


The past few months of work have been very monotamous and haven given me much room to experiment with new things. I’m not complaining, it’s paying the bills nicely and I’m certainly not going to shun these projects – I’m comfortable doing them and enjoy large parts of it. But it has made me want to revisit some side-projects and kick some life back into them.

Given that I’m using Kodery more recently, it makes sense to put some effort into that, so I’ve come up with a little plan.

  • Clean up the UI a bit
  • Fix some bugs
  • Add the ability to take payments and add restrictions to free accounts1. Those restrictions won’t affect current users viewing snippets already there, but you won’t be able to add more.
  • Add a few other ideas I have, like the long-awaited code editor plugins2

I have no timeline for this, but it looks like I might be able to fit in a few days for this early September. Wish me luck!

  1. Such as up to 20 snippets for free, not entirely sure yet 

  2. Probably for Atom & Sublime from me, others can make their own 

Next & Previous Post Links in the Same Taxonomy

If you use Custom Post Types with custom taxonomies in WP, you’ve no doubt wanted to add Next & Previous buttons on the single-cake.php template that keep the same taxonomy term as the page they sit on.

As a loose example, let’s use cake. cake is our CPT, and we have a custom taxonomy of flavor. We have a few terms there of chocolate, lemon, and strawberry.

We’re looking at a chocolate cake, and we want a button at the bottom of the single-cake.php template that says Next Chocolate Cake1. So we need a way to link to the next cake that’s also a chocolate cake.

$prev_post = get_previous_post(true, false, 'flavor');
$next_post = get_next_post(true, false, 'flavor');
  • true means we want the next/prev post to be of the same term (‘flavor’ in our case)
  • false means we don’t want to exclude any ID’s here
  • flavor is our taxonomy

In the past, I’d have some something with a WP_Query loop, but now I know this exusts, I don’t need to!

There’s more info on get_previous_post() and get_next_post(), so read the docs!

  1. You’ll need to do something with get_the_terms() to get the current taxonomy term. 

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