It's been a minute and to be fair, this email is only possible because I'm sitting in the Jury Assembly room for what appears to be a full day of Jury Duty. So, seems like a good time to catch you up on what's new, and share some things I'm into.
This time of year is generally my favorite. Not so much because of all the Black Friday spam, but because it's the time of year lots of my friends reach out to me for my opinions navigating all the Black Friday deals. It's nice to feel helpful!
I'm trying out a new format so you can find things easier, so let me know what you think and if you have any suggestions! I hope everyone has a restful holiday break.
Enjoy and have great holiday weekend! ✌️
- We spent two weeks in Auckland, New Zealand, and Sydney, Australia in August for the FIFA Women's World Cup. We were crazy and brought the toddler and while stressful, it was the best two weeks we've spent as a family. Experiencing a different country, and culture and attending the world's biggest games is something I'll never forget.
- Potty Training. We will be potty training our kiddo soon and using the Potty Training Made Simple from Big Little Feelings to guide us. As first-time parents of an only child, it's our first and last time to do this so we need all the help we can get
- WE'RE GOING TO DISNEYLAND. About a month ago our kiddo got looped into the Micky Mouse vortex. It had taken long enough if you ask me, but he now has stuffed versions of the entire Micky Mouse lineup so we've decided to spend his birthday at Disney. We chose Disneyland because it's smaller and having been to Disney World a few weeks ago for a work conference, it seemed too overwhelming. If you have any tips or suggestions, please me know. I'm setting expectations low but hoping it's still a fun time.
- Notion Idea Capture Template. I always wanted to publish a digital product and this Notion Idea Capture template is my first one. It's available for free and a great way to make it as easy as possible to capture an idea, webpage, YouTube video, or article you want to write more about. This template is what has generated the ideas of many of the blog posts on this site.
What I'm into right now
- Drama at OpenAI. This is my version of celebrity news for the last few days. If you're not familiar with it, The Verge has a great timeline on what the heck is going on. The TLDR is that the OpenAI board (a non-profit board overseeing a for-profit entity) fired the CEO Sam Altman outta nowhere. Sam said we'll see about that. Microsoft steps in (49% investor in OpenAI) and says it hired Sam on Monday, but nosey Microsoft employees say Sam isn't showing up on Teams, which is followed by the Microsoft CEO going on TV and saying the equivalent of "whatever happens, happens." Meanwhile, the board fires the replacement interim CEO with a new interim CEO, ex-Twitch CEO Emmet Shear, which ends up working against the OpenAI board because he wanted receipts on why Sam was fired in the first place otherwise he'd quit. All of this leads to today November 22, 2023, where Sam is back at OpenAI with his squad and a new board. Also, ChatGPT dropped a new feature and then broke while all this was happening. I'm linking to mostly Verge stuff because that's what I've been following but there's been great reporting from the WSJ, New York Times, The Information among others.
- Custom GPTs. Before the drama over the weekend OpenAI had announced GPTs, which allow users to upload their own data to make hyperspecific versions ChatGPT. A good example is what Kevin Roose and Casey Newton did on their podcast, Hard Fork. They uploaded their podcast transcripts and created a GPT that lets you query it, making it easy to do ask things like "What episode has X as a guest and what was their response to Y topic." I can see that being super helpful with podcasts, but also a super efficient way to browse publications online to make it easier to find information.
- Installer is a newsletter by Verge editor-at-large David Pierce and to be totally honest, it's what I want this newsletter to be. A fun place to talk about all the things I'm into, and apps I like and get people to share apps and things they're into. It's overall a good time and one of the few newsletters I look forward to reading every Saturday at 9am.
- Artifact is an interesting news app that uses AI to provide stories based on your interests. It's what Apple News should have been. I always find something to read that's based on what I'm interested in and one thing I'm engaging more with is posting and the comments. I've shared some of my posts there and Artifact has been great about finding people who want to read it. Hello to all the new subs that found me on Artifact 👋
- Threads seems to be having a moment? I say this because most of the news I got on the OpenAI drama was on Threads. They've also been rolling out some updates that are making a better user experience. I'm still on Twitter/X but am finding myself spending less and less time there.
- The holiday season means everyone is publishing their gift guides. My favorites are the ones from The Wirecutter, The Strategist, The Verge. These lean more toward tech but often feature very specific lists aimed at a particular audience. Those kinds of lists actually inspired my own gift guide, specifically for people like me: Best gifts for overworked accountants who just want to feel something between client calls
- As someone who got diagnosed with ADHD in my late 20s, Extra Focus: The Quick Start Guide to Adult ADHD by Jesse Anderson has been a good, quick read. It provides a first-hand experience of what it's like learning about and managing ADHD when diagnosed as an adult and provides useful strategies to implement at home and work. Great read if you also got diagnosed as an adult or if you have someone close who was diagnosed as an adult
- Diego turns 3 in a few months and we intend on spending this Thanksgiving weekend... potty training. It's something Karla and I have deferred for far too long because we're terrified of having to teach a tiny human how to pee and poop in a toilet. But we're making the best of it and using Big Little Feeling's course to guide us.
- We took a road trip to San Antonio and visited the San Antonio Zoo and wanted to the Doseum (our favorite children's museum) but came back early since Diego started with a cough that is now the flu and ear infection. Anyway, this trip started with me retiring the trusted red Nike Duffle Bag I used for years and getting a proper dad bag. The Peak Design 35L duffle will be my road trip/day trip bag. It's the duffle bag companion to my Peak Design Everyday Backpack and the form factor makes it easy to pack my things and all the extra things Karla deems necessary for her and Diego for our two days on the road.
- Because Diego is sick we've been relying on Disney+ to get through the days. We've been watching: Firebuds, Dino Ranch, Mickey Mouse Mixed-Up Adventures (not Clubhouse!), and of course, Bluey. As a dad who has sat through all the seasons of these multiple times, I can confirm they are bearable and much better than the YouTube alternatives. Let that sweet sweet autoplay roll.
- It's mid-year performance time at work so I find myself toggling between connecting with my team and those I coach and also getting coached. It's around this time I refer to Paul Graham's Maker's Schedule, Manager's Schedule. While geared towards programmers, it resonated with me as someone who specializes in technology implementations and struggled to transition from maker (building stuff) to manager (building less stuff).
- Most of my week dealt with messing with Microsoft Loop, their Notion dupe. It was released last year and while limited, it provided a lot of the collaboration and PKM features I was desperate for that OneNote was not delivering.
- November 30th marks one year since ChatGPT's release and its impact on society and culture are pretty easy to spot. But if there's one question I've heard since it came out it's "How can I use this at work?" It's a loaded question because the use cases are out there, but how you use it at work comes down to your employer's policy around using it. I'm pretty involved in the AI efforts at work and have GenAI tools to show the potential use cases for our clients and our engagement teams. I've also been following Ashley Francis's newsletter Kitchen Table Automations. She's a CPA based in Seattle and is a great example of someone grabbing AI and running with it. She has a lot of great use cases and content for those looking to understand what the heck this is.
- Following up on my last point, I read through Futureproof: 9 Rules for Surviving in the Age of AI by Kevin Roose's. It was an insightful read because I came at it from different perspectives. As an implementer of technology, who is generally identifying the use cases. As a user, I'm actually using the technology in a professional and personal capacity. And as a skeptic, because for some reason anytime AI is mentioned in conversation, it's always the accountants that are going to get automated first. If you're interested in the topic or want to find ways to bring this into your professional life, it's a good read.
- For work, I'm still using Logseq for note-taking. The scrollable daily note view has grown on me and it is less overall intimidating than Obsidian. Plus it's the only app I could get IT to approve because it's open source.
- Craft is still my go-to for writing personal notes. Because we've been taking more trips, I created a home manual here that I can share with the homesitters. I've also found a good structure that helps keep ideas moving.
- Raindrop.io has been my link aggregator as of late. If there's a link I want to come back to, I send it to Raindrop.
- You may know of Canva and Adobe Express (formerly Spark) but have you heard of Microsoft Designer? Because it's having a moment and with all the GenAI built in and the fact that it's free made it a pinned tab for me. I used it to create the header image of my accountant gift guide.
- To-do lists are haunting me. I used Todoist, loved it, and left it. Paid for Things 3, loved it, and forgot about it. Use Apple Reminders with my wife and sometimes use Microsoft Todo and Planner at work. There are also a few sticky notes somewhere in my office, backpack, and notebook. I'm either overwhelmed or a lost cause. The thing I've been using the most is actually this skinny form factor to-do list. As of late everything just gets captured here.
📱Tech I Bought and Enjoyed
I've been going to coffee shops a lot recently and working at the dinner table. I wanted a stand for my 16-inch laptop that wasn't plastic and not too bulky and this does the job perfectly. It offers two angles: the lower one is great for when I want to use the laptop and the higher one is great if I want to raise the screen and whip out an actual keyboard and mouse. It really is invisible in that you don't notice it until you need it.
Kasa Outdoor Smart Plug
We finally did some sort of smart lighting outside and used this plug to automate the lights. You can use the Kasa or Alexa/Google Home/Home Assistant for the automation.
BenQ ScreenBar Halo
A splurge purchase thanks to a healthy Amazon gift card balance from folks clicking my links (thank you all).
This ScreenBar sits on top of your monitor and provides the most even lighting without producing screen glare. With it getting darker earlier, this has helped me light my workspace, ditch the main office lights, and create a space that's ideal for creating. Plus it got rid of the lamp Karla didn't like.
New stuff on the site
🍫🖊️The Junk Drawer
- I've always been fascinated with sleep, practicing it, and understanding what's happening in our brains when we sleep. When Spotify rolled out audiobooks a few weeks ago, I started listening to Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker after watching him on the Star Talk Podcast. It's what I listen to on my daily commute and answers a lot of the questions I had about sleep (and also introduces some new ones). It's weird listening to it on Spotify but it's there and included in my Premium subscription, so I went for it. You add it to your queue.
- Karla and I had a date night and enjoyed watching The Marvels. It was genuinely a fun movie and Iman Vellani is a joy to watch. I wasn't expecting another Avengers: End Game!
- Apple had an event last month where they announced the M3 computers. If you're shopping for a laptop and MacBooks are an option let me save you some time. I recommend the M2 MacBook Air (13-inch, 15-inch). For most people, this is going to do it all. If you need anything more, you're dealing with a creative professional, video editor, programmer, or spec head and they'll know exactly what they want.
- After visiting Books Kinokuniya in Sydney, Karla and I fell in love with the Pilot Juice Up pens. Buy a variety pack or stock up on black ones. They feel so nice to write with, whether it's sticky notes, written notes, or filling out forms. You'll find these on my desk, in my backpack, and yes, in my junk drawer.
Signing off! ✌️
Thanks in advance if you made it this far. I consume a lot of information and need somewhere to share it and this blog/newsletter has a been a great place for that. If you liked what you read, forward this to a friend! If you prefer to read these on your browser, bookmark my Newsletter home page where you can read this and all my prior newsletters. I hope you all have a great weekend, eat some good food and have some happy times!