When I lived in Los Angeles, and was much poorer, I took many odd jobs. One of those jobs required me to drive around the city collecting money from those acrylic, honor-boxes typically found next to cash registers at liquor stores.

I’m sure you have seen them, but if not they look something like this. You put money in the top (coins or bills) and take a candy from the bottom. The paper usually has a picture of a sick child or equally sad graphic asking for your donations.

This was a scam.

At least the guy I worked for was running a scam. When I first replied to the ad I didn’t know it was a scam. When I drove to every liquor store and nail salon on the list I didn’t know it was a scam. When people who ran the establishments saw me that first day and excitedly told me we had a “good haul” that week, I still didn’t know it was a scam.

I felt good doing it. I was collecting tons of money. (Literally, I had to go to the bank twice a day to deposit the coins that I rolled by hand.) I liked meeting people and there was a bit of camaraderie as I went about my job behind the counter of their business.

Over the weeks when I had to meet my boss (who was a lawyer by day) to hand him deposit slips or get checks to buy more mints he slowly revealed how the whole thing worked. It wasn’t a scam in the way you might be thinking. The boxes were legitimately rented to my boss from a charity. I cannot remember the name, but it was one I remember recognizing at the time.

The price for renting a box was $2.50 per month. The mints were purchased through the charity for (I think) $15 a box which contained hundreds of mints. Like I said, he’d give me a check to swing by the charity and get more mints when we ran low.

So where was the money I was depositing going? I don’t know. But after I got to know him I certainly had my ideas. When I would drop the box rental checks and checks for mints off at the charity I did notice on the form I was supposed to mark whether they were for mints, boxes, or simply donations. I never dropped off a donation.

I often think about this experience when I think about how seemingly simple situations and businesses can be far more complex when you actually dive into them.

The charity received money for the box rentals and mints. My boss made a terrific amount of money. People felt good for donating their spare change or dollar. They also got a mint. It was actually a pretty good mint.

And me? I made minimum wage plus a few dollars more. And I will admit I probably ate more mints than I was supposed to.

It’s not a list, it’s a series of paragraphs. It’s actually about tech blogs again. Did you read the one about the best dressed geeks? Yeah? Cool!

The stuff below might be incorrect! Ah well, best dressed people of tech win again.

Did you read the story about Parkmobile? Apparently some guy used a non-governmental service* that let him pay for his parking meter while he was at a baseball game. The city was made aware of the location of his car by Parkmobile (which shared his license plate number) and dispatched a truck to tow him because he had unpaid speeding tickets.

That is: a private company informed the city’s parking enforcement of the location of someone’s car that had unpaid speeding tickets.

People who commit speeding violations are terrible, and anyone with unpaid speeding tickets is twice the jerk, but there is a feeling in my mind that using a private company would shield me from a connection to my city’s police department. That their privacy policy would restrict the sharing of my license plate or name or any information I’ve stored with them with the local government who can then act on that info.

I didn’t see this story in the tech blogs so I thought I’d write about it.

* The entire article is pretty wordy and paced slowly for dramatic effect, but the relevant bit is three paragraphs from the bottom.

After World War II ended in 1945 a few Japanese soldiers (known as Japanese holdouts) refused to surrender either because they were never told the war was over or simply refused on principle. They continued to hold their islands/positions as instructed by their superiors ten, twenty, and in some cases thirty years after the war had ended.

I know about this footnote of history because the phenomenon seemed to show up often in TV shows and pop-culture produced in the decades following the end of the war. It was a peculiar bit of trivia that, based on real fact, could be dramatized and injected into a show like Gilligan’s Island (So Sorry, My Island Now).

I think TV writers liked it because it can reflect the romantic notions of honor and loyalty, or the stupidity and stubbornness of humans to accept change.

Michael Pusateri posted something he titled “Inventing a Problem” about the latest Apple outrage: an unhackable, unserviceable laptop. Quite a few people got worked up about this fact even though Apple delivered a non-serviceable laptop way back in January 2008. Please read Michael’s post, he has some good arguments that I agree with.

I am a member of a small, private web community that has existed for over ten years. Over those years I have noticed a certain type of member who without fail gets worked up over a change in technology. When Apple dropped the 3.5" diskette they were there. When smartphones began losing physical keyboards they were there. When the Macbook Air debuted without an optical drive they were there. The reasons for their protests are manifold: IT departments will have to redo their policies regarding software installation!, people will design web sites too big for smaller screens!, people will have accidents because you can’t type by touch!, it goes on and on…

When the new Macbook Pro with Retina display was released a few on the site complained that rich designers (who could afford “Stevebooks”) would start designing sites that wouldn’t look good on cheap computers. Setting aside the existence of CSS media queries that can select the correct image for a browser’s resolution and the ever-growing adoption of responsive layouts, I think at the core of this response is that technology is about to drastically change and this scares people.

Now, as I said, I am a member of that community. I too join in on the booing when change starts happening too fast. Even recently fretting over the impending change to the gTLDs.

But in the last couple of days something happened and I can feel my view of the world changing.

Let me rewind a bit: we bought my mom a third-generation iPad. She took it home, used it for a month, and then returned it to us saying she thought it was much too nice to be sitting on the shelf while she used her Macbook Pro. She really likes her Macbook Pro.

I happened to be going on a business trip this week so I took it with me. I actually used the thing as it is intended: I checked and wrote email, I read some books, I watched a couple of documentaries, I shopped. Every time I would think of grabbing my laptop I found myself flipping open the iPad instead.

Yes, I know millions of people have bought these and use them exactly in this fashion. It’s just that I am one of those people who used to pore over CPU specs on Anandtech. I would wait to buy new hardware if it coincided with a game release. I daisy-chained my 3dfx Voodoo card. I overclocked my CPUs for reasons I don’t even remember.

I have a sub-domain for my weblog. I manage my DNS. I use a personalized domain for email. I have been using the internet for TWENTY years! Like some hipster who has been following a band for years I spent 10 of those years not shutting up about the internet, and then the second 10 years wishing everyone would get off my internet.

But somewhere in between that new iPad, the unserviceable laptop non-story, and that idiotic comment about the new Retina displays something in my brain snapped. I give up. I surrender. The war is over. I can’t care about this stuff anymore. Getting annoyed at the pace of technology is fruitless for me. Being cynical about any new bit of technology that doesn’t fit into my view of how stuff should work has been a dragging anchor in my life.

I will admit right now that I am typing this on my Macbook Air. I could not find a blog editor that could publish to Typepad that I was comfortable with, and until MarsEdit for iPad gets written I think I will keep using my laptop for blog posts and of course programming tasks.

But sitting right next to the Air is my iPad in a beautiful DODOcase that just screams “Pick me up!” and so I am going to do that now.

Every month I open my bank and credit card statements and do a quick scan of everything I was charged or paid for. Most of the time it’s what I expected, sometimes I have to spend a couple of seconds thinking what a “LMNOP**CORP**TACO” is, and once in a while it’s completely perplexing and I have to either call the phone number or do a fair amount of Googling.

Screen Shot 2012 06 09 at 4 21 34 PM

A few weeks ago there was a charge on my card with an entry like CONDENAST**SERVICES and a phone number. I called the number but nobody answered. I called back the next day and left a message. I called back the third day and the person on the line didn’t know, but we figured it out after she asked me a few questions. (it was my ArsTechnica subscription auto-renewing)

The process of starting up a new Quickbooks or Mint account and tagging and classifying my payments is onerous to me. But I also hate having to go back every month and get a glimpse of my money at one moment in time. I want something that will notify me when a payment or charge occurs giving me a chance to classify or make a note or even schedule a time to followup on the charge.

Just like carrying a Fitbit and having a quick way to see how many steps I’ve taken in a day, having a view into my bank account in real-time as money is deducted would be very welcomed.

So my question is: does anyone do this? Does anyone know how I could pull my bank and credit charges into one place to then fire off actions when something new is seen? I’m assuming OFX but if there is something easier I can simply plug into I’d rather do that.

Someone asked me today about the CI stack we have at Simpleform. Then someone else asked about our logging. Then I got into a conversation with someone about Backbone. So here is nearly everything we use and build stuff with.

First I spend most of my time in Tornado. Right now we’re working on an API that sits in front of Mongo so we are using Tornado and Bitly’s asyncpymongo. As long as I’m listing libraries I’ll also mention we are using Mock for testing and Boto to interact with Amazon’s AWS.

We make extensive use of Amazon’s Web Services. That is EC2 servers, RDS, S3, Elastic IPs, CloudFront, whew… It’s scripted with custom scripts that fire up Puppet clients and servers that build out and configure the environment.

We also built a site for a client in Django this year and it went very well. I like Django. I’d use it more if it fit into the types of sites we build, but too often it feels forced so we go with Tornado.

Late last year I worked on a project that used CoffeeScript, Backbone, and Sass on the front-end. I had never used any of these tools and wasn’t particularly a strong JavaScript developer, so it was fun to see these tools from a different perspective. Since then I released Laterspam.org which used all three. I have another app I will release someday that also uses them.

I use Codekit to manage compilation, syntax checking, and minifying. If you’re on a Mac it’s a must have.

We also use Rundeck for deployments and Jenkins for automated testing. Logging is sent to Papertrail. And of course everything lives on Github.

This is a simple idea I am going to assume ad networks are already doing, but if they aren’t, they should!

When you first get online at work in the morning some ad provider should note that this is the first time they’ve seen you in a few hours. The assumption should be that you must have just sat down at your desk so…

An alert should be sent to email marketers that they should send you their daily email now. This is email you’ve already signed up for, just the delivery time is now optimal since you were just “seen” online.