The Good Old Days of Banking

Bank Calendar

“Resolved that the best way to feel independent is to have a bank account.  Then you’ll never need to ask anybody for favors, but will be able to help yourself.  Let us keep your money safe for you.”

(via Mint.com Blog)

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Kay Jay

It starts with a glance at the crackberry a little after six. Usually my favorite time of the day to spend reading, thinking and soaking in anything I can find that has nothing to do with web 2.0.

It’s always a one-liner, maybe two. They haven’t yet begun with the words “Where’s my … ?” (opting instead for “I need”), for which I’m thankful. But it means getting on the VPN and spending a little time in Excel or Word or Acrobat. And delivering. Soon.

We call them KJs, short for knee-jerk assignments. There’s little time to think and less time to second-guess. Adam calls them “hero or goat” moments, which I think is funny, since I recently learned that “few animals walk taller than the he-goat”:http://www.gnpcb.org/esv/search/?q=proverbs+30%3A29-31. But I think he rather meant “the stupid kind”:http://www.theonion.com/content/node/40091 instead.

Making up for December

A dear friend whom we missed very much during the holidays poked me today: is this thing still on? Are we dead? I told her we were just busy, which is stupid: of course we’re busy — who isn’t busy?

The new year and holidays came and went mercifully well, though we honestly wondered if we were going to make it through this one. 2006, a year I thought couldn’t have come sooner on Dec 31, 2005, left as quietly as it arrived. The year was not without its heartaches, which often brought us to tears of grief and loss. But, it was also a year in which there were no murders on our street, no car accidents, no layoffs, no massive hurricanes cutting a swath through my mom’s backyard.

I took a new job, the city of Newark saw its first glimpse of hope in Cory Booker, and we saw Europe for the first time.

And, of course, we got knocked up.

***

Listening to back-episodes of the Gillmor Gang lately has got me wondering what this site would look like if it was more like an attention stream than a blog. There are a dozen web services that I use on a regular basis — all of which have RSS capability. Aggregating that content on this site, I think, would provide a more useful picture of what I’ve been paying attention to over the past several weeks.

I also wanted a web design that wouldn’t just look like I just cobbled together a bunch of text from disparate sites, and I wanted to use a metaphor that would fit in one screen, so you can literally see the stream of my diggs, pictures, blogs (here and elsewhere), and twittering in the context of time. Hence the timeline up top (a free AJAX widget provided by those bright guys at MIT). Ultimately, the timeline will show different colors for the varying web services, the current design is a start — what do you think?

***

I actually get paid to play with the web in my job. A large portion of my responsibilities lie with the team Intranet site, which our managing director wants to use as our main communication medium and platform for tools inside our organization. There’s a lot of room to breathe with this new gig, and I’ve been able to come up with some interesting and creative ideas, leveraging ajaxy web 2.0 goodness like MIT’s timeline. Did you know that the Yahoo Maps API lets you use their software inside a firewall? At a commercial organization? For FREE?

It also occurred to me the other day that we can use Microsoft Access as a content management system for the site — and not how you would think, either. We’re currently restricted by our web host to HTML, CSS and JavaScript (with some server side include capability), and /that’s it/: no ASP, no Java, and don’t even think about open-source. With daily pressure to get graphs, charts, figures, news, and documents on the intranet daily, what’s an overworked web-monkey to do?

Well, one might surmise that said monkey could build some tables inside of Access to accomodate news items; maybe design some sweet forms to do the data entry for the news “blog”. Writing code to export that content in the form of an SHTML include file in Visual Basic is trivial, and the monkey knows how to write a batch file that will FTP the exported file to the right location on the intranet. Done. Now any member of the team (technical or no), can log into this Access database, type in their stuff and click “Publish”. And the beautiful part is that it works just like Moveable Type. Sure, it’s not very web 2.0, but it’s agile, doesn’t require a bureaucratic change request process, and will be up and running by tomorrow (I started working on it today).

You can also import all sorts of data, analyze it with queries, and output HTML tables which, combined with the PlotKit JavaScript library, can be graphed and charted with ease, which I’ll leave as an exercise for the reader.

***

Sarah got me a few books on fatherhood for Christmas this year, which I’ve just started plodding through (I figure they’re due by March 27th!). Aside from adding a number of to-dos to my list of things to talk about during our “Family Meeting Night”, it’s been a welcome sanity-check on just what we’re getting ourselves into. I told Schmoo tonight: “did you realize that that baby has to come /through/ your pelvis?” To which she replied, “well, how else did you expect it to come out?” And, of course I knew this had to be so. Only, it was only /too/ clear when I saw a drawing of an inverted baby floating through a skeletal pelvis on page 51 of The Birth Partner.

***

I mentioned the Gillmor Gang, which, if you check out my Digg profile, is one of my dugg podcasts (note in passing to the Digg crew: please make it easy to check for the latest podcasts in my digg profile, thanks). It’s actually defunct now as Steve’s funding or time or patience had run out with his podcast provider, the last “Thanksgiving Gang” having been recorded way back in November. Undaunted, I’ve been making my way through his past episodes, whiling away the hours hacking databases and spreadsheets at work, listening to the crew of marketers, journalists, and entrepreneurs talk about their work, their predictions for the industry, and generally b.s. about the personalities behind the press releases.

It’s a brilliant model for a podcast: six or seven industry insiders get on a conference line and talk about whatever they feel about talking about. I’d love to use it one day — it reminds me of the days back at Ironworks when we’d just hang out and talk about the world’s problems until the middle of the night.

“Jason Calacanis”:http://www.calacanis.com, one of the resident entrepreneurs on the show, has been downright inspiring. His narrative of growing up a poor kid in the Burroughs and covering the tech scene in New York during the bubble before he launched his own blog network resonates with me. Between him and web 2.0 wonder-boy Mike Arrington and totally random (emergent?) Christian cartoon ex-Silicon Valley blogger Hugh MacLeod, I sometimes find them grasping towards the intersection of art and business — that place you get to when you find you’re doing great work, what you later will consider your life’s work. These guys love what they do, and I think for many of them, the day-to-day job — of writing, of deal-making, of building, of whatever — has transcended getting a paycheck into a craft. It’s always encouraging to those of us in the trenches to hear that it doesn’t always have to be this way: that there’s more important and interesting work out there waiting to be found.

***

I discovered Wesabe the other day: it’s like Microsoft Money for the web, with half the features. If it hasn’t been said before, let me be the first: CONSUMER BANKS (ESPECIALLY THE BIG ONES) NEED TO PROVIDE THIS KIND OF SERVICE IN THE NEXT 18 MONTHS OR DIE OF IRRELEVANCE. It’s actually offensive to me now that my bank doesn’t automatically provide me with analysis tools to track my spending and investment habits.

I actually did receive a year-end statement from my Credit Union last year that attempted to break out my spending into various categories for the first time ever, which I very much appreciated. But the first thing I did when they asked me to fill out a survey was to tell them: great job with the year-end spending breakout, now please do it every month, and put it online within a year.

Microsoft Money is a tragedy of an accident of a failure of a software product. I’ve been using it since 1998 and, much like the rest of Office, have come to loathe it in the last two or three years. They’ve added features I don’t use, they’ve left reporting bugs that drive me crazy, they’ve attempted every bit of lock-in they could think of to prevent me from getting my own personal financial data, and they’ve screwed with the user interface — which once looked like I was logging into a sophisticated, stately banking application — so that it now looks like a bad imitation of a Fischer-Price toy.

Wesabe is the first salvo of web 2.0 coming to banking apps, and I fully expect this trend to continue as the privacy issues are hashed out. I’ve already switched completely: how could I pass on instant financial analysis available anywhere I have a secure web connection? Now I’m just trying to figure out how to get five years of data out of Money to load into Wesabe.

***

Well, if you made it this far through the brain-dump that is this blog, I wanted to thank you, dear readers, for sticking around through these past nearing-five years of Our Story. That some people with whom I’ve had passing encounters (such as “Nikkiana”:http://everytomorrow.org, “Sean”:http://semanticbible.org and “Dale”:http://wp.theoblogical.org/) continue to read this blog just amazes and humbles me. Thanks for reading.

***

Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle.

— ??Steve Jobs??

After the Jump

I’ve never resigned from a job before. The experience was a little surreal, even while I was having the conversation with my boss. His look of shock helped, though.

I wasn’t looking forward to it at all. I have a decent working relationship with him, but my manager and I haven’t been close. I hadn’t the slightest idea of whether he was going to laugh, be furious, or get strangely quiet. Getting a new job can be a lot of fun, but I think only the most bitter employees look forward to quitting.

There’s nothing quite like changing jobs to teach you about the sovereignty of God. I had breakfast with Frank that morning and he raised the question: “So, what have you been doubting Him about lately?” I don’t know whether it’s the corporate world or because we constantly struggled with finances when I was growing up, but I’m often pressed with the weight of responsibility of providing for my family.

Beyond the immediate, we also talked about the idea of one’s “Life’s Work” and of having “arrived” in one’s own career. I think artists struggle with this question in a more dynamic way than many business people, but I think everyone working a job they don’t like wonders what they should _really_ be doing with their lives.

In the end, after the initial shock, my manager was ecstatic for me. He said I was one of the best people he’s worked with, that my career growth was limited in my current role, and said I made absolutely the right decision. I was floored — of all the things to come out of his mouth, I expected this the least.

My new job within Citigroup starts at the end of the month, and then we leave for three weeks for Europe. I’m looking forward to stepping back from work for a while and getting some perspective on what it really means to eat and drink and find satisfaction in my work.

Before the Jump

Darryl came by the old stomping grounds on his way to the color printer. “Hey Ken, you’re good with databases and web development, right?”

“Sure, why?”

“‘Cause Adam has a job he’s looking to fill. You should ask him about it.”

“Okay, sure, I’ll send him an email.”

***

August 4th

monster interview questions → Monster: At the Interview (3:51 PM) → Six Interview Mistakes

 

***

I met Dan for lunch after having bumped into him on Church Street two months before. I know him, but not really well — just some passing conversations in church and during his work in his “former life.”

We met up over pizza and swapped stories about work. Dan is really excited about his job: he’s a product manager for the CRM system at an education and curriculum company, and they’re branching out into other enterprisey information tools like ERP. He’s being stretched, and he’s learning the nuances of project management in a large organization. He asked me how things were with my job.

I told him what I did, and that I was sorta working on making a change. I mentioned in passing that I was concerned that my leaving my group was going to be pretty disruptive with a major project coming up in September, and that I might try to work out helping with that project for a few weeks in my new role. “No,” he stabbed a plastic fork in the air, “two weeks, that’s it.” But I don’t want to burn any bridges, I said. “Fine, then don’t burn any bridges. But just give them two weeks. You’re too talented to be doing things like taking meeting minutes and scheduling video conference calls.”

***

August 13th

transfer internally career advice → Being Bold Blog: Managing Internal Transfers (12:30 AM) → Transfer Internally the Right Way

***

I ran into Marty as I was walking across campus the other day. We exchanged pleasantries and he asked what I was up to. “Oh, the same old thing,” I told him.

“The same old thing?” he asked, incredulous — and maybe a little disappointed. This same manager shook my hand in his office before he left the group and told me in no uncertain terms that I should be looking for another job. He thought well of the work I’d done for him during the eight months we’d worked together, but that he was unsure of the future of the group and the stability of my role.

After a quick internal calculus, I decided to keep my mouth shut, “Yeah, a few tweaks, but pretty much the same old thing.”

***

August 17th

rands resignation checklist → Rands In Repose: YOUR RESIGNATION/LAYOFF CHECKLIST (11:18 AM)

On the Radar: Up Late Waiting for iDVD to Encode

* ??Alissa Clark??: “Weekends and Things”:http://www.alissaclark.com/?p=261. And this, my dears, is why God made coffee for his beloved. It’s a common grace thing, like the rain.
* “Ask a Ninja”:http://askaninja.com/. Don’t ask me why, but I think this is hilarious (“iTunes podcast”:http://phobos.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewPodcast?id=115933673&s=143441).
* “ScrewTape on the Da Vinci Code”:http://churchofthemasses.blogspot.com/2006/04/screwtape-on-dvc.html. If anyone’s going to revive ScrewTape, I’m glad it’s Eric Metexas. Ask your average fellow in the street the slightest detail of a daft sitcom of forty years ago and he will move heaven and earth to to supply you with the answer, and then will likely prate on with other similarly inane details — as if knowing who lived at 1313 Mockingbird Lane was his very passport to the Elysian Fields.
* ??Russell Posegate??: “Graduate Recital”:http://russell.posegate.org/podcasts/recital-060327/. My brother-in-law is a rockstar. See him listed in “iTunes”:http://phobos.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewPodcast?id=148258780&s=143441 among the other rockstars.
* ??Rands in Repose??: “1.0”:http://www.randsinrepose.com/archives/2006/04/20/10.html. Who wants to do a startup?
* ??Jamie Zawinski??: “The Netscape Dorm”:http://www.jwz.org/gruntle/nscpdorm.html. It is two days later and I am still at the office. I did not go and chase coots. There is too much work to do. I want to die. Who _still_ wants to do a startup? 😉 (“via Rands comments”:http://www.randsinrepose.com/mt/mt-comments.cgi?entry_id=408)
* ??The Onion??: “Beaver Overthinking Dam”:http://www.theonion.com/content/node/47469. Work-work-work. Gnaw-gnaw-gnaw. Build-build-build. Must hurry. (“via 37signals”:http://37signals.com/svn/archives2/the_onion_beaver_overthinking_dam.php)
* ??Michael H. Goldhaber??: “Attention Shoppers!”:http://www.wired.com/wired/5.12/es_attention_pr.html Really, really compelling article about the future of the web, and of how we value things in the attention economy.
* ??Fortune Magazine??: “The boom is back”:http://money.cnn.com/magazines/fortune/fortune_archive/2006/05/01/8375405/index.htm. Wow, I could have told you about these companies a year ago.
* ??Steve Jobs??: “Commencement Address at Stanford (iTunes)”:https://deimos.apple.com/WebObjects/ITCSBrowse.woa/wa/Browse/StanfordPublic-1770144-1770146–1770159–1770745_84019178?i=1741752008. I think I’ve linked to the transcript before, but John Gruber found the “audio version more inspiring”:http://daringfireball.net/2006/04/initiative. I agree, and the video version is even better.
* ??Mike Davidson??: “Hacking a More Tasteful Myspace”:http://www.mikeindustries.com/blog/archive/2006/04/hacking-myspace-layouts. Wow–Mike’s MySpace page actually isn’t horrifyingly ugly. Not sure I want to spend the time tweaking my own, though.
* ??Steven Garrity??: “Acts of Volition Radio: Session 24”:http://actsofvolition.com/archives/2006/april/actsofvolition. I’ve really been digging Steven’s “podcasts” (now that they’re called that). This latest one ends with one of the most amazing songs I’ve ever heard.
* ??Heather Armstrong??: “Even I can’t believe I’m allowed to have a dog”:http://www.dooce.com/archives/nubbin/04_05_2006.html. This is exactly why having a dog is so much fun.
* ??Mark Pilgrim??: “All the dogs I have known and loved”:http://diveintomark.org/archives/2006/04/14/dogs. Mark Pilgrim is writing a blog again. Also regarding dogs.

In other news, I’ve set up a “NewsGator”:http://newsgator.com account for Sarah and made it her home page so she can keep up on our friends’ blogs. It’s become a family ritual now, where she and I sit side-by-side, scrolling through the morass of bloggy goodness before going to sleep. Well, except for those nights when I’m burning DVDs until 2 AM, anyway. 😉