Idolatry of Innovators Can Lead You to Foolish Places

Here’s an insane thing I read on social media today:

Post by @inspiringselfcompassion
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The fellow who blocked the account above, Michael Darius, includes Apple pioneer, skeuomorph, and protégé of Steve Jobs in his Twitter bio. His actual opinion regarding taking notes during meetings is literally this:

Suffice it to say, design meetings are not a criminal conspiracy. His subsequent comment about the copious note taking that occurred after those meetings exposes the absurdity of the practice he’s touting.

I can’t recommend the practice of taking notes during meetings highly enough. Whether you’re an pen-and-paper note taker (my preference), or someone who types notes on a laptop on-the-fly, you’ll be far more likely that you’ll know not just what you need to do, but how your work connects to the work of others if you capture the right information. Depending on your role (and I’ve found this to be more and more true as I’ve gone further in management), if you distribute your notes you can become the person that doesn’t just keep track of agendas, but the person who sets and drives them as well. Depending only on your memory in a professional context is effectively trying to work with both hands tied behind your back. And that’s before you even get into meeting length, subject, or any other attributes of meetings at work.

Taking notes isn’t merely about recall, but reuse. One of the original reasons I started blogging 20 years ago was to have a public place to capture things for future use for myself. Writing blog posts about how I solved particular programming challenges over time gave me a resource that I could and did search to accelerate solving similar problems in new contexts as I moved around during the course of my career. While the earliest blog posts weren’t about meetings per se, they did ultimately lead to my taking more notes in meetings.

Being a working professional is challenging enough without having to deal with cult-like hangups regarding note taking from the Dariuses of the work world. Do what you need to do in order to put your best foot forward at work. No employer who would impose such an arbitrary, stupid, and ultimately discriminatory requirement on how you process information at work is worthy of your time.

Farewell to the Last of My 40s

Today is my 50th birthday, and looking back on my 40s from this vantage point, they were *a lot*.

I became a dad (to twins). They’re now in 3rd grade. In their 8 years, we’ve taken them to Disneyworld and to Atlanta to visit family and friends. COVID resulted in the twins spending their kindergarten year on Zoom. Our son (who has special needs requiring speech and occupational therapy) handled the Zoom year surprisingly well. Our daughter had a very rough time with the Zoom year. She desperately needed to be around children her own age.

On the work front, I went from being gifted President’s Club seats to Nationals games and box seats to the infamous “You Like That!” game at FedEx Field by my employer, to laid off from that same company and out of work for four months (the longest I’ve ever been out of work in my entire career). Over 6 years later, I still work for the same company that hired me out of unemployment, have been promoted twice, and helped a handful of my direct reports get promoted as well (the most successful of them went to Amazon, and is now a senior manager at Microsoft).

My 40s included a good amount of domestic and foreign travel (though the pandemic stole a few years of it). We kicked off my 40s with a trip to Europe that included Barcelona, Nice, Monaco, Dolceacqua (for the bridge there Monet painted), and London. Another trip to Europe included Amsterdam and Paris. Domestic travel has taken my wife and I to Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Scottsdale, New York, and Minneapolis. While the pandemic isn’t really over, I started taking an annual solo trip for brief break from parenting and other family responsibilities. Philadelphia and Boston were the destinations the past couple of years. And while a change in my work portfolio toward the end of last year has added a bit of work travel to my schedule, a trip entirely for me will get onto my itinerary for 2024 somehow.

Insurrection? What Insurrection?

It is January 6, 2023 and in an even more depressing turn than I could have imagined, numerous so-called liberals joined the crowd of conservatives calling for Colorado’s Supreme Court ruling disqualifying Trump from the ballot on the basis of the 14th Amendment to be overturned. Governor Gavin Newsom is on record as disagreeing with any efforts to keep Trump off of California’s ballot. Lawrence Lessig has also added his name to the list of those for whom the plain text of the 14th Amendment is merely a suggestion. Jonathan Chait’s argument in favor of ignoring section 3 of the 14th Amendment is rightfully skewered by Adam Serwer in The Atlantic.

When even conservative law professors who are active with the Federalist Society conclude that Trump engaged in insurrection (as indicated in a law-review article Serwer links in his piece, and reported by the New York Times months before the Colorado Supreme Court ruling), it is difficult for me to conclude that anything other than cowardice motivates the opposition from certain professional liberal (and centrist) members of the chattering class. If Mitch McConnell can call January 6th an insurrection, then it was. Serwer describes January 6th this way:

The mob that attacked the Capitol on January 6 was the culmination of a series of efforts to overturn the election results, which included not merely legal appeals or extreme rhetoric—both of which are constitutionally permitted—but the use of the authority of the presidency to pressure state legislators to unlawfully overturn the elections in their state, to coerce the Department of Justice to provide a false pretext for overturning said results, and to intimidate then–Vice President Mike Pence into using authority he did not have to do the same, a request he nearly tried to fulfill. The failure of all of these schemes rested not on a lack of intent, but on not having consolidated federal power in a way Trump and his advisers are openly planning to do in a second term should he prevail in November.

Adam Serwer, Who’s Afraid of Calling Donald Trump an Insurrectionist?, The Atlantic, January 5, 2024

In this description, Serwer reminds us that Pence actually tried to fulfill Donald Trump’s wishes, contrary to the narrative of personal integrity and heroism he crafted for himself. It was former vice president Dan Quayle telling Pence he lacked the power to do what he was contemplating that ultimately tipped the balance.

This line from the last graf of Serwer’s piece is perhaps its most incisive:

If the Constitution’s provisions apply only when they are popular, then the Constitution is meaningless.

Adam Serwer, Who’s Afraid of Calling Donald Trump an Insurrectionist?, The Atlantic, January 5, 2024

This line is especially important because the Reconstruction Amendments which intended to give full citizenship to the formerly enslaved while ratified, were not broadly popular. President Lincoln was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth before even the first of the 3 amendments was ratified. States in the former Confederacy enacted Black Codes to circumvent the 13th Amendment. The 14th Amendment was necessary in order to kill the black codes because Andrew Johnson (who became president as a result of Lincoln’s assassination) used the office of president to oppose the full citizenship of formerly-enslaved black people. Reconstruction (which we too often fail to study) was ultimately abandoned by the federal government in the interests of a false and hollow unity. The Jim Crow laws that arose in the aftermath of Reconstruction’s abandonment did so in direct defiance of the Reconstruction Amendments. For black citizens living in southern states, the Constitution was meaningless. The Great Migration of this country’s black citizens out of the south to points north, midwest, and west was their response to the federal government’s abdication of its responsibility to provide them equal protection under the law.

Professional opinion-havers calling on the Supreme Court to overturn what Colorado and Maine have done have decided that the full citizenship of black people in this country should again be subject to the popular will. History tells us what happened the last time the country made this decision. But far more people than just black people will be harmed if the whims of whoever holds power decide what parts of the Constitution apply and what parts don’t.

What We Left Behind in 2023: Mint

Intuit decided and announced last year that Mint (an excellent personal finance app that I’ve used since 2009) would go away. They’ve pushed CreditKarma (another Intuit acquisition) as its replacement along with putting a migration option right into Mint. You’re also given the option to download all of your transactions as a CSV file, which should come in handy for exploring prospective replacement apps. Logging into Mint again after the migration is complete gives you a link to your Net Worth page (which at least as of this writing does not appear anywhere in CreditKarma’s regular menu navigation options). This lack of menu option becomes pretty annoying pretty quickly, because the Net Worth page is also the only place you can access the Link more links that enable you to connect more accounts to CreditKarma. Unfortunately, Intuit also decided to leave Mint’s budgeting capabilities behind in 2023 as well.

I began the process of exploring Mint alternatives for managing my personal finances within the past month or so. Copilot (the personal finance app, not the generative AI chatbot developed by Microsoft) is the one I’m looking into the most closely right now. Another one of my cousins is using PocketGuard. Another is trying out Monarch. One of the co-founders of Monarch is the former project manager for Mint, so that’s probably what I will try next if Copilot doesn’t work as well as I want.

Brief impressions of Copilot so far (in no particular order):

  • I hate the product name. Too much stuff already has Copilot as a name or in the name somewhere.
  • I like that they have a desktop app and a mobile app. In my limited usage so far, they’ve managed to make the experience across the desktop and mobile as close to the same as possible while still taking advantage of what iOS does well with touch.
  • By default, Copilot does not categorize an Uber Eats transaction as a Restaurant or Food transaction, so you have to add a name-based rule to make sure the app handles that correctly.
  • The initial set of categories Copilot supports does not include gifts or charitable deductions.
  • I really like the Year in Review and Month in Review features
  • The transaction list views also display whatever notes you’ve added to the transaction after a colon
  • I’m not sure if limiting their addressable market to iOS and macOS users is the best idea, but I think I understand why they’re doing it (Apple users = money)

I’ll continue to try the Copilot personal finance app for this month before I try Monarch and decide which to keep after that.