In Which the Hobbyist Gets Business

My time of dabbling and dawdling with HTML, CSS, and server-side scripting are potentially yielding me some business. Two seperate friends of mine have been talking with me about building websites for them. They’re both hobbyist craftspersons, and they need sites that are beyond the basic “business card” site. They need galleries, user authentication, project dossiers with potential sales linkage, news/blogging functionality, as well as the usual Contact, FAQ, About, and Links pages.

It excites me that I get to build these sites. It’s been over 6 years since I built my last for-pay site for a tattoo-artist friend back home. So it’ll be swell to get my hands back into the code and do some good stuff. Hopefully it’ll all work out well, and that I can learn something while I’m doing it.

That’s every designer’s hope, I guess.

The technological solution I have my eye on is called Maypole. It’s a Perl-based solution, very similar (according to the documentation) to Java Struts or, as I can figure, Ruby On Rails. It’s a generic application framework that, in its default unmodified state, provides basic methods and templates to manipulate and display data in a database. Its design paradigm is that of Model-View-Controller, and as such is based on the expansive Class::DBI package for the data model and the powerful Template Toolkit for the view.

By default, Maypole will Do The Right Thing: the basic application can be had with the only cost to the programmer being 20 lines of code. Expanded functionality can be done for a bit more work.

I’m currently reading through the documentation and learning more about it. I’ve messed with it a little bit; got the sample application up and running, hacked it enough to make it run well on my laptop without Mod_Perl installed. There are plenty of other coders who are messing with Maypole – it’s still in active development. So it looks like a good fit for what I’m needing.

It’s my hope that Maypole is a good fit, and that I can use it to build these sites to the standards of usability, power, and flexibility that my customers want and that I’ve been blathering on about for years.

Drive Away

After some careful examination, I decided that getting that ’99 Civic would have been an awful $9500 mistake. Seriously. Luckily my bank would’nt’ve financed it; they turned it down because it was a year too old. After discussing financing with the dealer, they took my credit info, checked my history, and made me an offer: they “sweetened” the deal by dropping the sale price to $6650 + TTL, and “threw in” a 2-year service contract.

So, with $1200 down, about $230ish a month for 3 years, I took those numbers to my boss who plugged them into his spreadsheet. He calculated that the interest on the finance was a whopping 22.1%, and that interest charges would amount to over $2500 for the finance term. Sickening.

I turned the offer down, and the dealer offered to explain things in further detail, saying I’m operating on partial information and that I should give him and the business manager a chance, etcetera. I still declined, and he offered to let me test drive other cars and so on; I drove a Neon and was completely unimpressed. He showed me a “sample” spreadsheet with the offer terms: his sheet said 11%. It was then I noticed that the 2-year extended warranty was actually on top of the price of the car — a trump-up to increase the finance amount. Gracefully, yet fatiguedly, I declined the offer. I most likely will not be returning to that dealer.

I learned this week that I can go to my bank and get prequalified for auto loans; it was my assumption that I had to have a vehicle already picked and ready to buy. Not so. Thursday morning I applied with my bank for a personal, unsecured loan (Wells Fargo’s version of prequalifying). The banker left in her notes that this loan will be for a car, so there will be collateral. We played phone tag on Friday, so I don’t know the outcome of the application, whether I got accepted for my requested amount or if they’ve made a counter-offer, or if I’ve been declined. Knowing this bit of information will affect what I’m looking for.

Until then, I’m resting from the used car battle.

Stretch, Reach, and Replace

Some replacements that’ve needed to happen for a long time are now happening at once. It’s unsettling.

First is my laptop. It’s old, it’s busted. It has developed a habit of shutting off at random. After some testing, I determined it was either a) that my installation of Windows XP somehow got pooched or b) the power circuitry, cdrom, or battery is intermittently killing it. So, I uninstalled everything, backed up my important stuff to my desktop machine, and reinstalled Windows.

Reinstallation is, for some of us who live on our computers, a debasing ordeal; all your customizations are lost, all the hacks, programs, and shortcuts you take for granted to get your stuff done are completely undone. You realize what it is about the default configurations that drive you to make those changes. And now I’m going back through all that.

So far, everything is fine. The power did zap off during the install so I had to restart, which makes me wonder if it’s actually the hardware instead. If it is, and if I can’t get this thing to run confidently, then I’m essentially without a laptop again and I’ll need to replace it, which is a pricy possibility.

Second, yet foremost on my mind, is The Dragonfly, my 1993 Mitsubishi Mirage. It’s thirteen years old, smokes like a train, fails emissions tests, and is falling apart. So, after eight and a half years of faithful, everloving service, I have to give it away.

In that regard, it’s time to replace it with another car. After very little looking around, I’ve found the car I want: a green 1999 Honda Civic LX. Four doors, five speeds. I test drove it yesterday, and it does well. I put a deposit on it to hold it, and the dealer offered $200 on a trade-in of my Mirage; basically giving it away (with a car that old, I’m pretty sure, the wholesalers will sell it for parts).

What I’m worried about most is this: money. The car, after all taxes, title, license, and dealer fees, will be $9321. I can swing that through financing. And I have $1000 available in my bank account to go towards down payment. But the dealer, it seems, wants $1500. I’m trying my bank’s financing to see what they can offer. A $500 difference won’t make much of a change in the monthly payment amount, but it’ll affect my interest rate. I guess if I can borrow out of my 401(k) plan at work, I can make it all work out, but everything will have to wait until Tuesday when the work week picks back up.

I know that I want this car, and that it’ll treat me well for years, but I am completely full of trepidation. There’s this feeling I get when it comes to dealing with large amounts of money, like I’m in trouble with my superiors or something. I felt it twice every semester back when I was in college: once at the beginning when I signed my promisory notes for student loans, and once at the end when I was signing another loan to round out my account for finals. I felt it when I signed the financing for my Mirage. And I’m feeling it now.

Am I making a $9321 mistake? Did I make a $200 mistake on the non-refundable deposit? Am I outstretching my reach by affixing my signature to the dotted line without more research, more digging, more financial wisdom? I hope not.