January 2007 - Posts
You can tell I'm pretty busy when I have little to add other than cute videos featuring cats.
I'm tired after a long but very good week, and with an (a)typically cavalier attitude, I have two disparate topics that cry out to be welded together - if this works, it's evidence that my wordsmithing abilities in bridging together thoughts is strong. If not, the readership is rendered hopelessly confused.
Assuming my readership is smarter than the teacher in charge of moderating my editorials in the high school newspaper, though, then this shouldn't be too difficult - so the ball's in my court, and I like a challenge.
Since throwing in non-sequitors is an excellent substitute for actually trying to write something funny - which never works anyway - I offer some appropriately dramatic music courtesy of Videosift is in order to help you settle into your reading.
I've been insanely busy yet productive lately. The side effect of this has been a steady accumulation of longer, more 'interesting' or 'amusing' stories to share but not enough time to do so.
Fortunately the audit job I'm on is winding down rapidly which should give me more time to write. And, more importantly, I'm scheduled for a laptop upgrade this morning - which will mean I can do everything faster, giving me even more time to write. And work.
I was going to rave a little more about my new gear, but there'll be time for that once I have it in my hands - first, the whole thing about writing reminded me of an article in the current issue of CA Magazine:
a small featurette on people who were fired for blogging about work - the usual reason was that they were doing it while on work time.
One guy was silly enough to brag about the fact he was being paid to sit around and do that instead of his real job.
And that's just stupid - he admitted to fraud - stealing time/money from his employer. A direct link to the fired writers featurette is here
Professionals at least have the same advantage as taxi drivers
: you can go 'off the clock', so to speak, when you're not doing 'productive' "work work", i.e., taking a break to run errands or type your personal online journal or whatever. People who keep 'regular hours' on the other hand don't have that luxury.
I wouldn't say that the CA Magazine article smugly puts down the unfortunate souls who had to go job hunting again because of their mistakes - although saying that someone had an audience of roughly 10 people before he was fired does sound a bit haughty.
Sidenote: welcome, Dennis
, to the list of sites on that handy bar to the right.
It's just under 800 words
- now I just need a proper thesis, introduction and conclusion and I'm set.
That is, I would be if I could submit this as a paper on the Legal Environment of Online Communities or something along those lines.
I really should be getting sleep instead of staying up late to type that up, or type up this commentary in response to it.
I'm definitely getting wired on caffeine tomorrow morning!
A little while ago a newbie posted something silly and obnoxious to a popular internet forum, and was admonished for... posting something silly and obnoxious.
The funny thing, in retrospect, is the newbie's defense: "it was meant to be a parody".
Yeah, sure it was.
The thing about parodies, anyone trying to be funny should remember, is that they take a lot
of work and effort to be good.
The thought hit me when I was going through some old papers and I saw some of my college newspaper's April Fool's editions.
Assuming you even know what a parody is, and have some reasonable sense of humour, it's not too hard to do.
Of course, "knowing what a parody is" can be a big problem on its own. I had one horrible writer who was unable to craft a normal news article, except when I asked for a parody for that issue: she gave me what read like a dry "normal" news article that one time.
In a world where many people have been living less years than the Simpsons have been on air, you'd think that "knowing what a parody is" might not be an unreasonable expectation.
Sadly, it's not.
Even worse, even if you do know, there's too many people who well try and fudge their way through in a half-assed manner.
Yesterday was an unsettling day. I heard from three recruiters.
Three! Before the clock even hit 1 p.m.!
If I was in desperate need of a job that would, of course, be wonderful rather than unsettling - but I'm quite gainfully not to mention happily employed.
That they called wasn't in itself a surprise - I have a voicemail that hit my cell phone last week (someone got a leaked copy of our phone list!), so this all seemed to 'jive' appropriately.
My first caller was in last August and I have no idea how he got my number. After that came an e-mail last month - someone must've started to piece together contact info from the results of last year's exams.
Those first contacts were one thing - the calls all went to voicemail, and e-mail isn't especially unsettling to begin with.
And then live voices hit - uh, hello, I'm trying to do some work!
And that, I gathered from personal observation and discussion with much more experienced people, is one of the big problems: getting unsolicited phone calls offering work can simply be stressful because it's throws you off your concentration and it makes you, to some extent, have to question yourself: am I happy where I am?
The answer, I'm glad to say, is "of course I am", but while self-examination is a worthwhile habit to pursue, it's really best if you do it on your own time, and not have it thrust upon you.
Hence the Yakov Smirnoff
Having vented about the emotional yo-yo effect of recruiters - you're obviously pleased to know you're a 'hot commodity', but you realize that 'a piece of meat' is also a commodity - it's interesting to consider the different approaches I've encountered so far:
- Man who calls clearly identifying the Big Four firm he's recruiting on behalf of (a firm you could've sworn had fallen on hard times - and yet they're hiring while they're firing?).
- Sweet-voiced lady who sounds like an old friend... who then makes you feel like a commodity.
- Smarmy Scottish guy who also makes you feel like a commodity, skipping the old friend step.
- "I make you feel special by asking you all about your job so I can update my contact database" guy. At least he could take a joke when I explained why I'm not particularly interested in working for a bank.
- The clever character who just sends an e-mail with BRIGHT, RED, FORMATTING.
Don't even get me started on the recruiter hiring for a company that looks like one of your clients.
A client you've sworn to yourself you'll never be caught dead working for yourself.
Good luck with that.
"Buy this car to drive to work. Drive to work to pay for this car."
Hand$hake$ - Metric
Ever feel shocked at how many corrupt governments around the world exploit or hurt the poor?
If so, remember that even supposedly 'pure' governments and political parties - even in Canada - hurt the poor.
Minimum wage laws.
In principle, it sounds like a good idea: make sure everyone is paid at least enough money to survive.
Minimum wages vary from country-to-country, but say it's $8 an hour. If you're working a 40 hour week, that means you're earning $320 a week, or $16,640 a year.
I've ignored tax deductions and vacation bonuses, but the point remains valid: even if the government legislates a minimum wage, you're pretty much screwed if you're going to rely on it.
If you expect people to be able to survive on something close to the per capita wage, which is about $30k in first world countries like Canada, the minimum wage would have to be about $14.42.
The most 'progressive' countries in the world usually have rates that hover around $10 an hour, except for Japan, where it's the equivalent of roughly $40 an hour, according to Wikipedia
. Oh wait, that's $40 a day, never mind. Luxembourg has one of the highest rates in Europe
- but it only works out to a little over $10 an hour too.
Not surprisingly, the previous site mentions that 18% of the workers in Luxembourg receive the minimum wage. A similarily high percentage of French workers get the minimum wage too.
So what's with the whole "hurting the poor" angle I posited earlier?
Anyone who doesn't understand the basic principles of economics might say, "hey, as long as you make sure everyone earns at least X dollars an hour, everything will be okay". In response to the fact that everyone's "not okay" right now, they may argue that's just because the minimum wage isn't high enough.
Sadly, that's not the case.Increase the minimum wage, and more people will
want to work.
But less employers will want to hire people!
Net effect? Increased unemployment for the poorest members of society.
So every political party which claims to care for the poor but at the same time wants to raise minimum wages is, effectively, harming
I'm careful not to say "left wing" or "right wing" because this isn't an issue of political views - it's an issue of simple economic fact.
Way back in the day, my first year economics professor concluded his sobering explanation of why minimum wages don't help everyone - yes, people who have jobs have a benefit, but everyone who loses their job or doesn't get one in the first place because there's less of them available - by saying that all is not lost.
If you want to help the poor - and that's certainly a Good Thing - but there are better ways. The Earned Income Tax Credit
already exists in several countries and has the benefit of being in some ways compaitble with the current tax system. The Negative Income Tax
is another option, but it would essentially mean a complete overhaul of the entire tax code in any country that has an existing system, so it's unlikely to ever happen.
Either of those two options would introduce new costs for the government but would simultaneously be designed to reduce or eliminate other welfare programs.
And most importantly, they would direct help to people who actually need it - the poor, rather than spoiled kids from rich suburban families who are just making some extra scratch to pay off their unnecessary car or fancy clothes.
Vacation's over, a full week has passed and my spare time has been cut down severely. I barely have enough time to read about what's going on in the world, let alone what other people are writing about online.
The distinction between "what's going on in the world" and "what other people are writing about online" is a fine one, but pretty self-evident, I suppose. Something akin to the difference between "news" and "opinion" articles, although it's often interesting to see them overlap, and that they do with decent frequency in the 'everyone's a publisher' environment that even this post is shared in.Neil
pointed out an example of two things: people who can't accept that we call it "Sox", not "Sarbox", and that people like to complain about things
. The article's about how Jim Clark quit his company - he owns a big chunk of it - because it no longer had a focus on invention, but just on producing things. But before going he wanted to say how much he hates Sox.
He was upset for various reasons, though they all boiled down to the fact that if you own a big chunk of the company, there's a risk that you could try and manipulate its financial reporting for your own benefit - he of course didn't see it that way. He saw it as The Man trying to keep him down.
Good luck with that.
More interesting, Google reports that it wants to make it easier to find out share prices
. I never really understood why stock exchanges had their results "delayed by 15 minutes". I guess the Google folk never did either, so they're working on getting legal clearance to avoid that issue.
Good for them.
Finally, another amusing article that has some spillover into the Day Job which talks about new hires
. It continues to amuse me how many satirical parallels you can find between legal and accounting firms. In this case, some of the golden remarks are about the complacency of second year versus first year staff - how the latter are eager to make their mark, and the former get used to the routine and realize the highs and lows that come with what is, essentially, the realization that you have job security.
I don't know what makes you realize it first - going through your performance reviews the second time around - assuming things are going well - or receiving phone calls from recruiters?
That's a story for another day, though.Note: because of the nuance of the electronic publishing system running this site, I've had to hack the code a little to make HTML links to other sites stand out more easily - hopefully it worked out today. Step two wil be to go back to writing more interesting headlines for my posts - I gave up today because this post, although intended to be interesting as always, is a hodge podge of various things.
It's fun to go skating
, especially in the middle of the workday. Some people haven't done that since elementary or high school - others simply have never skated in their lives.
And that was the scene today at Nathan Phillips Square
, where about a dozen of us found ourselves lacing up old skates and doing some laps in front of City Hall. To prepare, e-mails were sent - naturally, and lunch was eaten at my desk a half hour before noon.
After we finished skating we wandered back to the office, most people taking the PATH
, while four of us braved the elements and walked quickly along the street instead - it's always faster on the street, since the PATH is a winding underground labrynth, no doubt designed to maximize the number of stores you encounter as you make your way back to the office.
The afternoon was much more enjoyable than the morning - since I was actually fully awake! The crisp January air - we finally have something resembling winter weather! - really smacks you in the head if you're drowsy, as does the blood rush from skating during your lunch hour.
It's also nice to see skates sitting next to peoples' desks in the office - it makes a 'professional looking' environment so much more inviting.
Of course, it didn't look, or smell - thank goodness, like a locker room, since only the experienced skaters brought their gear - the newbies had to rent. I suppose skates you own are in much better condition than the banged-up rentals.
As usual, I took a bunch of photos and some may end up being used by our HR people in future recruiting events.
I can see the spin now - work here, and it'll be so enjoyable, you can go skating with your co-workers every now and then! The cool thing, of course, is that it's true. Life continues to be good.
I'm going to start a two-month loan for one of our over-worked departments next week, though, which will probably severely cut down on daytime extracurriculars, but I'm sure I'll find at least a little time to unwind with some kind of winter sports!
Writing may, however, once again fall a bit by the wayside. Unlike Scott Adams, I can't spend two hours doing nothing but writing every day
- but this doesn't take too
much time, so I'll still be around to some extent.
When I go on my big month-long vacation though, that's when you can expect things to get quiet around ACS. But more on that later, there's a few more months of hard work ahead before I get to relax again.
Sometimes it feels like work really is like this.
Malcolm Gladwell, of Tipping Point and Blink fame, recently wrote on his blog about how it's funny that journalists
- and not auditors or other financial types - were the ones who broke the Enron scandal.
The amusing thing is that the 'experts' let things ride, while the supposedly 'non-specialist' journalists were the ones who uncovered the truth.
It was certainly a shining member for journalists, but perhaps Gladwell overstates his case? Business journalists aren't complete slackers - they need to know what they're talking about. And in reality, all this business jargon doesn't require that you be an especially brilliant person - just clever enough to cut through some terminology and concepts. It's something I figure I could do.
Which wouldn't be a stretch of the imagination, considering I spent about a decade of my life as a student journalist before going into auditing.
His whole column made me think: will the ultimate effect of all the time spent learning the way of the journalist ultimately help me function as a better auditor? Or perhaps give me an alternate career option down the road?
Freelance writing definitely sounds like fun, if you have a day job to back you up when things are slow.
I like to read Opinionistas
regularly, finding it interesting to see the differences between young pups in the worlds of audit versus law.
There are some real similarities, especially in the sense that you're both working for businesses structured as partnerships. Each take on a pyramid shape, with a ton of young kids supervised by more experienced staff and managers, who are in turn experienced by progressively more experienced senior managers and partners.
The news from New York says that there's apparently an unprecedently large exodus of the mid-level staff/managers
at the big law firms. The big firms are scrambling to fill the gaps, leading to senior partner-types doing the work that would've normally delegated to the now-missing mid-tier staff.
Audit firms are used to this phenomenon - of the "best companies to work for", they'll usually have some of the highest turnover statistics. They just keep things running in a fashion that keeps the company healthy while people come and go.
Plus, the more progressive firms are embracing measures to make work more enjoyable - encouraging positive work-life balance, flex hours, and the ilk. It can be wonderful if you know how to take advantage of it in a positive way.
Wonder how long until the law firms
come around to that style? Heck, for people working in less 'humane' accounting firms, they must be wondering when their own offices are going to come around.
Glad I've started the New Year on a happy note, enjoying work. Then again, I've started 2007 still on vacation, so it would be rather disturbing if I wasn't in a good mood.
Just like the ever-increasing average global temperature and the rising body count in Iraq, another thing you can expect to keep going up is the amount of spam received over any period of time.
Last month was no exception, like November
, which featured a total of 1921 pieces of junk mail, there was even more trash in December, 2436 pieces of it, a 27% increase rise.
Will this flood ever abate? I doubt it, but it would be nice if it did, just so we would know that the speed of internet communications would then be increased, since less spam messages would be clogging up the infamous ‘tubes’