August 2006 - Posts
My handful of regular readers know that I've been running a little side project
to track how much spam I'm getting every month. In a few hours I'll post my August total.
The annoying thing about spam is that once you get a single message, you know that it's never going to be the last one. Whoever got your address and decided to send you offers for cheap Canadian drugs and the stolen gold of Kuwait
will share or sell your address to others, and your once-virginal e-mail account will be polluted by the filthy luchre mongers from the internet's Dark Side of Commerce. When I feel fanciful, I refer to it as the Undernet.
Anyway - I just checked my voicemail at work, and found a much more interesting 'first trickle' of a new form of "spam."
No, thankful it's not SPIT
- because that would be infinitely more 'annoying' than 'interesting'.
It was a voicemail from a recruiter working on behalf of one of the big 4 accounting firms. A few thoughts immediately leapt to mind when I realized what I was listening to; although this list is numbered, they all hit me more or less simultaneously:
- Who are you?
- How did you get my number?
- Do you really think they would want me?
- I'm flattered.
- Are you sure you're calling the right person?
It's a fact of life in my industry - as well in no doubt many others - that once you have some measure of experience, you become a hot commodity. Now let's not kid ourselves, I'm "lukewarm" at best, but it's still nevertheless interesting to see all those stories about other people getting weekly calls from recruiters starting to apply personally.
This is, of course, only the first call, and observations "3" and "5" are at the forefront of my mind - humility is a virtue! - but common sense says that this will probably happen again in the future.
I didn't call the recruiter back because I'm busy studying for my exam and I really do enjoy my current job so much that I have no interest in leaving - the work I do my not be unique, but my co-workers definitely are, and as one of my friends said a party a little while ago, it's the people we work with that keep us from jumping ship and looking for greener pastures.
Pastures? Yes, you can definitely equate yourself with bovine animals when you have a desk job.
Cattle jokes aside, there's a third reason too: my opinion of the other firm
he called me on behalf of isn't very high. I guess it's a respected place and all, but I have friends from university working there and they didn't seem to happy when we talked about our respective experiences. Looking at things solely from the perspective of the UFE, they don't get anywhere near the same level of support we receive.
My bosses have given me all the support I need to study for the UFE and given us great incentives to do well. Need to attend accounting classes? No problem. Want experience with different types of business accounting software? Done. Need time to get your CA, CPA, or just for general exam review? Go for it.
Over there? Not so much.
It probably also doesn't help that I reinforced this attitude by using the other firm as a punchline to jokes I pulled at training events. I never thought of myself as the kind of person who can pull off the role of "class clown", but it worked. And the joke killed
Then again, in an accouting-related course, the material is so dry that it doesn't take much to amuse people.
Still, I immediately felt silly doing it because it was so juvenile; everyone got a good laugh out of it, so it couldn't have been all bad, eh? I probably should, however, have been more careful not to pick on a firm that it turned out one of our instructors had previously worked at. Oops.
Still, he seemed to laugh as much as everyone else at that gag. Or was it an embarrassed grimace? Anyway, that's a story for another day.
Returning to the line of thought concerning how this is "spam", it'll be interesting, though, to see if Mr. Headhunter calls again in the future, or if others will be calling in his stead.
feel like a form of spam, in that I'm getting unsolicited communication from people trying to make money off of me - headhunters really rake in the big bucks
! - but it's probably also the most enjoyable type of spam to receive.
And how would that be?
It's a silly thing, but getting added to a recruiter's database boosts all sorts of personal feelings in ways that the miracle drugs that 'regular spam' could never hope to achieve. Plus it's nice to know you have 'fallback' options in case things go poorly for you. It's probably also a fun sort of "bragging right" to have - although my friends haven't traded notes on who's gotten more calls. Maybe we'll do that later on a bored Friday afternoon.
It's funny, for a while I thought I was immune to the powers of caffeine. My friends would warn me not to have a late night espresso because it would keep me up all night.
"Bah", I would respond.
You probably see where I'm going with this - it's late, I'm awake, and writing instead of sleeping.
Being an accounting student means that I don't have to suffer - I just need to open up one of the many accounting textbooks I have lying around and I'll be out like a light in under five minutes.
Unfortunately I've packed up most of my books and lent out the one that I still had lying around to someone not even in accounting..
I should probably ask to get my book back sometime soon.
Still, I'm not even close to being wired enough to want to dig my other books out. I only had a nice sugary but delicious latte as well as tiramisu gelato. Normally that wouldn't be enough to keep me up. But I stupidly reset my internal body clock to prefer going to sleep at 4 a.m. and waking up at noon.
That's an especially bad idea because I need to keep my body used to the idea of waking up to be in an exam hall by 9 a.m. And that means waking up a good two hours before that time.
Fortunately it'll only take me a day or two to 'reset the clock' back to normal. A good sleep-deprived day caused by my waking up early later this morning will be the key catalyst.
Perhaps the most ironic aspect of my current inhuman condition
is that it's rainy and wet outside - if this were morning I'd want to stay in bed no matter how well rested I feel. Rainy weather makes you sleepy! And yet I'm not.
No wait, ranting about rainy weather does
make you sleepy. I'm done now.
is the magazine of the counter-consumerist-culture movement. Started in the early 1990's, it has issued terrific spoofs of real ads and been at the forefront of the Culture Jamming
As is my habit, I let my subscription lapse a while ago - I do that with the magazines I'm reading when I feel I'm not interested anymore or that the quality has slackened off. Of course, getting copies of CA Magazine in the mail and other things keep me too busy to read everything as well.
I have my reasons, okay?
Anyway, that's not the point - the point is that I wandered over to the online edition of Adbusters magazine and read an article about Nike's resurgence in skater culture
. Once I'm done discussing that, I'll get carried away and attack the husband of a former Canadian Head of State.
The article reports that Nike, long a bastion of anti-corporate sentiments, achieved success, even if some of it was only because they 'manufactured scarcity': they sold limited editions of special copies of their shoes which appeal to sneakerheads
- the "stamp collectors of the sports world." People who buys shoes just to have a nice collection, not to wear them. Imelda Marcos
The interesting thing about the article, though, isn't so much that it's an expose
of the failure of skaters to resist Nike. It's that it reads like an article straight of a marketing industry journal.
Even the commentary about how Nike is ruining something by making it mainstream sounds to me like something you'd read in a typical mainstream journal:
by co-opting rebelliousness into an obsessive-compulsive feedback loop
of consumption, companies like Nike only accelerate the death of the
counterculture that so attracted them. It’s hard to know if Bodecker
doesn’t realize this, or simply doesn’t care, because there will always
be another counterculture to exploit.
And to conclude
Skateboarding has entered an era where top riders sign corporate
sponsorship contracts with “anti-offensiveness” and “no disparagement”
clauses, mainstream television stations like espn – Disney’s sports
division – show the X-Games and skateboarders shred at the Olympics.
Thanks to corporations like Nike we can eat extreme pizza, drive
Nissan’s X-Terra SUV, wear extreme deodorant, hire extreme consulting
firms and invest in extreme equity funds. But if we are all extreme
now, then where have the real rebels gone? Disappeared in a haze of
One of the first commenters on the article's webpage calls the article, "a level-headed analysis of Nike's method
for taking over the skateboarder demographic" and not "Adbusters "let's bemoan the corporate takeover of
the counterculture article.""
But is that really so effective? Reading the article I felt like I could be marketing person looking for ideas to riff on - is that really what Adbusters should be writing about?
Then again, what should they be writing about? Is it better to read about how Harper is going to turn us into a nation of conservative oilers
? Or predictable Google bashing
Or consider their interviews concerning the state of economics on campus. John Ralston Saul
has the gall to accuse U of T
of not having any economic historians on campus.
That's an insult against all the excellent professors that the university does
I had the privilege of studying with Professor Rotstein
- in third year I got to enjoy Canadian Economic History, and that was exactly the sort of course that Adbusters and Saul in particular bawl about not existing
. According to the Economics pages
, it's still available too.
It's definitely the kind of course that makes students go "hmm", forcing them to digest the standard "capitalism is good and perfect" pap they get in their formative classes.
It also proves that Saul is completely full of his own sense of self-important rhetorical garbage. They engage in a 'let's reinforce this logic pile-on' with a quote from activist James Robertson
who thinks that economics students aren't learning about utility curves and other non-purely-money-related modes of thinking.
Wow - prove your point by including the point of view of a nice varied cross section of people... who completely agree with you. That's the worst journalism I've seen in a while, and I've read quite a bit of the National Post
's coverage of the recent Israeli-Lebanon disaster.
Perhaps it's best if Adbusters does stick to its new identity, as a faux
To their credit, at least they did include this cogent reply from an economics student:
First of all I don't think Mr Saul is an economist. Mr Saul does not
like economics because it involves mathematics. I would hazard a guess
that Mr Saul cannot understand the mathematics of economics and would
prefer economists not to use math so he may understand the arguments
and make his own arguments in a social science fashion.
Glad I'm not alone in calling Saul on his crap.
And at least there were some eye-opening things to read about in the article about nuclear might in the US, Israel, Pakistan, well just about everywhere
Just in case you have trouble typing out long addresses, I'd like you to note that you can access this blog from www.krupo.ca
It'll have the same effect as going to http://steeplemedia.com/blogs/krupo/
except it requires less typing.
To make navigation even more delightful, krupo.ca is identical to that entire previous link. That means that http://krupo.ca/archive/category/1002.aspx
will both take you to the same page: the ASX link page
, the list of all my accounting-ish postings.
We'll return to regularly scheduled programming in the next post.
Until then, I do something else I haven't done in a while - share something a video. Technically it's related to my line of work, so no one can accuse me of slacking off. If only I could figure out how to keep my blog from super-shrinking the size of these vids we'd be set.
To make sure you score top marks, assume people who read what you write think that you
are an idiot.
Never forget this and you might do reasonably well, assuming you do everything else correctly.
What this means, you see, is that you have to explain every decision you make. You must provide support for your choices and assumptions.
For example, let's say you pick a top tax rate because your client is very wealthy and has a high income.
Make sure you say that! No one will assume that you 'knew' that. They'll assume you guessed or otherwise have no idea what you're talking about, and you'll be left sputtering, why you did so poorly on the exam.
The correct approach is to actually say, "I picked a 45% tax rate; it's the top rate and I'm using it because you’re client has hundreds of thousands of dollars in income, and is therefore being taxed at the top rate."
Do that everywhere, and you'll do fine.
Despite already having had this drilled into my head, I keep forgetting to state these explicit little facts. Like the case where a company is undercharging for a product they're making. When they sell, they sell at a loss.
I even get most of the right answer - the price is too low and it should be raised to reflect actual costs, plus a nice little markup for profits.
But the obvious is what gets me: I forget to explicitly state "and because of this, management incorrectly thinks they're losing money". Add in some other implications related to case facts and you've scored full marks.
I really should remember all this from now on. And act on it.
Remember to sit down and do the valuation.
One of the many ways people panic and flip out is to be given a job to do and to then forget to do it.
When you’re presented with a choice of valuation methodologies, explain the reasoning behind the method you have chosen to get full credit for your answer. But remember to go ahead and pick a method and run with it.
If you have the optoin of using the multiple of earnings approach that's good for you - because it omits all that 'tax shield crap' that capitalized cash flows deal with.
If you’re given one appropriate number that looks easy to apply, determine if it’s appropriate.
If you’re a stable going concern and it’s a service business, income is more important than net assets.
If you’re not given any facts to support an alternate method, then it’s safe to go with the method you’re being ‘nudged’ towards instead of inventing something brand new and crazy, or trying to do two different methods for some strange reason. You barely have enough time to do one decent valuation.
There is no way you'll do better by writing up two sub-par valuations instead.
The moment you give your client incorrect advice you will be declared incompetent. Which means you fail.
And by "fail", I mean you don't score points on that particular question. Although if you do this enough times, you’ll fail the whole exam too.
Which makes sense.
The interesting factor is that this is a professional exam - and if you write answers which indicate that you would be a lousy professional accountant, you are going to be destroyed on the exam. Which is probably still better than being destroyed by Real Life, though.
doesn't have much to do with it - so I've taken to making a regular series
of posts to the Google Fact
It seems like the more appropriate place to discuss Google topics. So until Google mentions something else that directly affects ACS, say, changes
to Google Spreadsheets
, I'll probably ignore it from this point onwards.
Am I the only one who finds it ironic that after writing an post where I joke about too much communication being a problem
I promptly 'disappear' for all intents and purposes for a week?
Well, unannounced disappearances aren't great, although I'd like to think you've been fairly warned that the process of preparing for the UFE involves intermittently disappearing into your own little bubble while working on learning how to answer the unexpected.
I met up with scores of co-workers today, including several who were significantly senior to me in terms of rank and experience (the two go hand in hand, really).
I got another flurry of advice, including pointers on time management and how to properly psyche yourself up for the three day exam.
And I took the advice seriously, even when it sounded like a repeat of what I had heard before. Aside from this being the polite way to react, I figured it's the smart thing to do. Even if you've heard the same tip from many different people, there are varying levels of nuance that can give you an additional perspective on how to do things. And that's a Good Thing, since the UFE basically compels you to open your eyes and think for yourself, and determine what stands out, instead of passively absorbing the information that's shovelled in your general direction.
So am I learning by sifting through supposedly redundant advice? I'd like to think so. It might not be as entertaining as sifting through videos
, but few things are.
My niece, the source of the name for ACS - she thought I was at a Counting School when I explained to the little one that I just returned from “Accounting School”
- is visiting.
And she wanted me to read her some stories. I read a Robert Munsch book (Angela’s Airplane), and after that, she wanted another. She dug through the pile of old children’s books sitting in the corner, finding a few of them. Among them, was a book I wrote in grade 3.
Wow, I had completely forgotten about it.
Our teacher actually bound those little storybooks we created with pencils, rulers, and crayons - you know times have changed, since now savvy nine year olds can instead use Adobe products.
I read her the story, and for someone that was under the age of the author, it was an amusing read. Or perhaps she was just humouring me. Either way, I swear I could’ve been an excellent children’s book author back then.
But by my current writing standards, it was absolutely horrid. The only thing unchanged since then is the quality of
- my actual handwriting
- my artwork
Of course, the art I’m capable of making with my computer is somewhat better - just like with my handwriting, it’s artwork that relies on my personal physical dexterity that sucks.
What does this nice big fat tangent have to do with the title? It’s because Homer’s classic quote shows an incredible level of depth with regards to humour. He knows that the problem is inadequate or poor communication, but he communicates that thought incorrectly.
Similarly, my communication skills have increased greatly, but there’s always room for improvement.
We’ve been told that most people are ready to pass their accounting classes or program - to be more specific, their special exams like the UFE
- right now. Gaining technical knowledge isn’t key, perhaps with the exception of special tax issue. What’s really lacking is communication skills - the ability to show you know what you’re talking about in your response.
So the trick is to show that you understand what you’re talking about, or else you’ll be penalized or will fail. Is authoring ACS a clever ploy to practice those skills and hopefully gain something resembling an audience at the same time? What do you think? What’s my other motive for doing it? Getting free swag like cellphones?
The thrill of spearheading an internet business venture?
Well, maybe not swag, but the venture idea sounds good, actually.
Rather than indulge in another ASX
entry, it's time to discuss the importance of standing your ground
. Nothing Gandhi
-like, since life is never that interesting, although I suppose it could be, depending on how you look at it.
Studying at my office, instead of squirrelling away at home, my group had to find a place to work on our 'fake exam'. We could, in theory, just sit anywhere, but it's best to get a room where you can close the door and not be bothered, since then you can get 5 hours of relatively uninterrupted quiet to concentrate on writing.
While you'll always have a little distraction in the real exam hall, you certainly don't want to hear the phone ringing or other people's conversations while trying to concentrate on your fake exam!
Everything went rather well for the first 4 hours. We allowed ourselves a small interruption to raid a catered lunch - we had our own lunches, but who can resist free food? Especially if you even get the rare thrill of full permission to treat yourself!
A happy day it was indeed.
Then of course, we heard a knock at the door. A very senior-looking man was wondering if the room was occupied.
Why yes it was, I replied - in fact, I had booked it for the whole day.
He seemed confused. He must've been some sort of "important" chap, used to having everything available. But he was also rather polite, and quickly retreated, recognizing that I might be right. Maybe I had booked it.
In fact, I had - first thing in the morning!
Well it turned out that while the first man didn't feel like pushing, another man did. He was definitely someone from a higher 'pay grade', as recognized by another member of my group, and he didn't seem very pleased. He assumed the room we were in belonged to the people he was with.
Fair enough, but I booked the room. I offered to show him the e-mail confirmation.
While loading up my e-mail program, he thought better of pushing the matter and also retreated.
It seemed funny to be pushing back against the not too subtle encroachments of another group. But it also felt right. Upon further investigation, I noticed that these other people had a room of their own. But theirs was smaller than ours. They were hoping to get a nice big fat conference room to have their little discussion.
A nice big room like the one we were in.
Of course, if it was really important and they asked, we would've politely packed up our gear and moved on, like the Gypsies of the Business World it feels like we are.
But they didn't. So we stayed.
I even wandered out to see if they were okay. And they certainly were - sure, they had a relatively smaller room, but that was what they had booked and their meeting was already underway. I was certainly not going to
But, as in the case of "real life" passive resistance, there was a cost to reaction. And that was the fact that the last half hour of my 'fake exam' was completely disrupted.
I could've put some more effort into finishing it, but when your spell of concentration is broken, it can be very difficult to get back into "writing mode". It didn't help that I was pretty much done my response - all I could've managed in the last little bit of time would've been a few refinements here and there. I'll just have to take my next fake exam, which I'll be writing shortly, so much more seriously to compensate for today's disruption.
It doesn't hurt that I've also booked rooms on "quieter" floors, where the risk of disruption should also be much lower.
At least I learned something from all this. When hiding, pick hiding places with the least people around to bother you. Seems obvious, but I gained a new appreciation for the nuance involved in finding your own little bubble, and making it work for you.
The only downside I foresee with respect to the next study hall is that there's a much lower chance of scoring free food. But I can live with that. After all, I still have yesterday's lunch in the fridge, waiting to be eaten later today.
I'm a little late, but it's to better to be late than to quit a Quixotic statistics project: - last month my I got dinged with 716 pieces of spam. Tracking the monthly spam totals has become a monthly routine
. The general trend to date is that the monthly total is risingly upwards steadily. The July total is a gain of 36 over June, or a roughly 5.3% increase. Not that bad, but still pretty damned high. - that translates to an annual rate of 63.6%.
In a piece of Very Good News, Google finally listened to the cries of myself and other users, and added a "remove all spam" button to the spam-box.
If you don't notice the "delete all spam" command, and choose "select all 100 messages", Google helpfully adds a "select all 716 spams" command to remind you that you have that option.
Earlier today a man making other TTC patrons 'uncomfortable' caused the evacuation of Christie subway station.
The passenger assistance alarm on the westbound train activated just before 5 p.m. The first indication of trouble to passengers in the other cars was the announcement vacate the train immediately and to proceed to the mezzanine level.
As the loaded rush-hour train slowly emptied itself of commuters, transit and city police officers began to arrive. Shortly after they made it to the train, commuters were instructed to completely vacate the station.
As rain started to come down, TTC riders were instructed to wait on Bloor Street for forthcoming shuttle buses which would take them to Ossington, the next stop on the line.
The distance between the two stations is not particularly great, so at least half the crowd started walking instead. Scattered groups waited in vain for a bus or called for friends or taxis to pick them up.
Ironically, impatient people who hopped in cabs could’ve saved their cash, I soon learned. I walked over to Ossington station, entering at the same time as the train I evacuated from was arriving. Amusing timing, really.
It's too bad I didn't have my camera with me to document the zaniness. Picasa's uploader
would've made it nice and easy to post pictures of the chaos. The link I added is to news about the Mac version of the uploader - it happened to be the one I had on hand.. Running a nice AMD system, though, I wouldn't have to have waited until now to get a Mac version.
Having said all that, nothing really happened despite all the excitement - I spoke with the guard of the subway train while boarding at Ossington, and again while leaving; in those brief snippets of conversation I learned that the evacuation was caused by the behaviour of a man on the train. He was acting erratically or suspiciously, making other passengers feel uneasy. The guard said that the man "taken down" by police. Interestingly, while roughly half the passengers were in agreement that the man was threatening, the rest believed that the man had done nothing wrong.
It's not surprising to hear, really, considering nothing exploded.
Still, it's interesting to see Toronto operating at such a heightened level of alertness: dozens of police, EMTs
, and firefighters arrived "just in case". It was as much a good training exercise as it was a nuisance to the thousands of people who were delayed at least a half hour in their end of day commutes.
Detailed SOA results arrived in the mail last week. The ICAO forgot to tell us what each number represents.
Maybe they thought we already remember which number corresponds to which competency from our CKE results.
Here’s the list, based on the order in which the competency areas are presented in the syllabus:
1 Organizational Effectiveness
5 Performance Measurement
Side note: this is a first for me: blogging outdoors, in the rain. gonna run inside now, as the wind is getting stronger, so the big patio umbrella is becoming progressively less useful.
Let’s say that you’re auditing a company with a Dec 31 year end. Let’s say you don’t know whether or not a sale will be complete until you get approval from the buyer in January.
Can you determine if they have scored the revenue they’re going after?
You can, if it’s already February and the buyer has already passed on their blessing.
A lot of UFE writers forget to include the power of the “subsequent events period” (i.e., the fact that you’re already “in the future”) – it’s an additional tool at your disposal which can give you a potentially rich source of valid alternative accounting treatments.